Based on the music of ABBA, which I grew up listening to. I have been to New York City once; my choir in college was chosen to help premiere a piece at Carnegie Hall (yes, it was very cool). And as choir kids, we all wanted to hit Broadway. Most wanted to go to Avenue Q; I was not keen, but if it was the only chance I had to seen a show on Broadway, I’d do it. Then someone suggested Mamma Mia and I was in. So much fun. Student seats are not the greatest; we ended up behind speakers, which didn’t block our view that much, but we certainly knew when each act started. And we were close enough to the stage that at the end of the show, when a lot of the audience is singing along (including me) the cast could see us; I swear the one guys smiled at us.
The film has an all-star cast. Amanda Seyfried (was in Mean Girls but this really made her a star, then had a lead in the big Les Miserables movie, and the lead in creepy Red Riding Hood and happier Letters to Juliet) is Sophie, Meryl Steep (Aunt March in the most recent Little Women, Devil Wears Prada, the witch in Into the Woods, amongst dozens of other roles) is her mother, Donna, Christine Baranski (Leonard’s mother in Big Band Theory, the stepmother in Into the Woods) and Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley!, Mrs. Austen in Becoming Jane, Mistress Quickly in the Hollow Crown’s Henry IV and Henry V, and she voiced the witch in Brave) are Donna’s friends Tanya and Rosie. Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, Howard Stark in Captain America and Agent Carter) is Sky, Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, Dr. Erik in Thor) is Bill, Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy in the longer version of Pride and Prejudice, What a Girl Wants, Nanny McPhee, The Last Legion, among many other roles) is Harry, and Pierce Brosnan (Remington Steele, James Bond, the late nineties Thomas Crown Affair, opposite Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire and several other roles) is Sam.
The film opens with Sophie singing I Have a Dream and mailing three letters. Next, she is greeting her two best friends who have arrived for her wedding. She has a secret that she hasn’t told anyone…she has invited her dad. She found the diary her mother kept the year she was pregnant with Sophie; there are three possibilities, Sam, Bill, and Harry and Sophie sent invitations to all of them. She reads her mother’s diary to her friends; they giggle to Honey, Honey. Sophie has not told her mother the three men are coming, nor has she told her fiancé. We see the three men try to catch the ferry; Harry and Sam miss it, but luckily Bill is there with a boat.
Next Donna’s friends Rosie and Tanya arrive, eager to see Sophie. They’re also worried about Donna. Sophie and Sky have plans for the rundown hotel and bring in business via the Internet. But it’s been rough for Donna being a single mother and running a business. She complains that Money, Money, Money would solve a lot of problems. She is however, over men.
Yeah, and the three men that made her life complicated have just arrived on the island, unbeknownst to her. Sophie takes them to a secret room and order them to hide; Donna does not know and she does not want Donna to know…until it’s too late. But Donna stumbles across them and reminisces to Mamma Mia. She literally falls through the roof (and oh boy, they are hilarious-looking as young men) and freaks out. She orders them away, then runs off. Rosie and Tanya attempt to cheer her up with Chicaquita. They get the truth out of Donna; the men are here and Donna worries it will upset Sophie (don’t have to worry about that). And Donna herself does not know which is Sophie’s dad. Her mother’s disapproval is brought up. As Rosie comments; “it’s all very Greek.” Tanya and Rosie cheer Donna up further with Dancing Queen and all the women on the island join in [there is a cameo by Benny Andersson of ABBA as the piano player].
Sophie tracks down the men and bonds with them over Our Last Summer and begs them to stay. She then meets up with Sky; they are utterly devoted to each other and Lay All Your Love transitions into Sophie’s bachelorette party, after a hilarious dance by the men in flippers. Donna and the Dynamos make a one night appearance and sing Super Trouper. The men interrupt the party; even Sky and his buddies crash the party for Gimme Gimme Gimme a Man After Midnight. Sam counsels Sophie to pursue her dream before settling down; the women tie Bill up; and Harry tries to hide. But each comes to the conclusion they are Sophie’s dad and promise to walk her down the aisle. Voulez Vous raises the anxiety and Sophie faints.
Rosie and Tanya decide to distract the men the next morning for Donna; Tanya attempts boating with Harry, but he swims away. Rosie is attracted to Bill and his treated to his naked butt. Donna tries to talk to Sophie and thinks she wants to call off the wedding. No, Sophie is just confused and brings up her dad situation, but can’t tell her mother she is the one who brought the three men to the island. Sam talks to Donna about Sophie and makes the pitch that Sophie shouldn’t get married right away. If Sophie felt Donna was taken care of, she’d venture out on her own. But Donna can handle herself; this is not an S.O.S. (Pierce sings well in this number).
One of Sky’s buddies tries to flirt with Tanya, but she quips Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out, highlighting the age difference. Harry hands Donna a check and scampers away and preparations begin for the wedding. Sophie comes clean to Sky and while he still loves her, he’s frustrated that she thinks she needs to know her father. She has a family without him and finding him won’t complete her; she has to do that on her own. And was this the whole reason for a big wedding? Sophie asks Donna to help her dress and they reminisce through Slipping Through My Fingers. Sophie is sincere when she asks her mother to give her away.
Sam catches Donna again, but she doesn’t want to talk how The Winner Takes it All. She’s a bit late, but walks her daughter down the aisle. Then admits before the ceremony that Sophie’s dad is there. Sophie says she invited them. Well, Donna doesn’t know which one. Happily all the men are pleased to have even one-third of Sophie. Then Sophie turns to Sky and calls off the wedding; they should just travel, like he wanted. But there won’t be a wasted wedding; Sam proposes to Donna. He is a divorced man. Yes, he had been engaged when they met twenty years previous and yes, he had gone home…but to call it off. Then he came back for Donna, only to find out she was off with another guy. Donna says I Do, I Do. Sam croons Here’s to Us at their reception. Rosie makes a move on Bill and asks him Take a Chance on Me. Everyone is dancing and cheering; the men are shirtless [Pierce still looks good] and the legendary fountain of Aphrodite bursts through the concrete courtyard.
Sophie sails off with Sky to a reprise of I Have Dream. Donna and the Dynamos come out for the credits and Dancing Queen. Then the whole cast, in sparkly 70s garb [I laugh every time] shows up for Waterloo [and there is another cameo by Björn Ulvaeus in the Greek gods that appear].
A sequel, Here We Go Again came out ten years after the first movie and is filled with more ABBA music. It adds Lily Davis (live action Cinderella, Downton Abbey) as young Donna and tells the story of how Donna met Bill, Harry, and Sam. It is graduation at Oxford in 1979; Donna thrills everyone with When I Kissed the Teacher [Björn is one of the teachers]. Relaxing with Tanya and Rosie afterwards, Donna tells them she is going to travel; mainly to keep away from her mother. She starts her adventure in Paris and runs into Harry, a very awkward man. He is instantly attracted to her, but tries to talk the long way around holding her hand and wants to sleep with her, because this will be their only opportunity. Waterloo charms her [Benny is again a piano player and I liked that the scene was inclusive for everyone, including a woman dancing in a wheelchair]. Donna agrees but we can see she was not impressed.
Her next stop is Greece. She misses the ferry, but a young Bill is there to sweep her away on his boat. They happily flirt to Why Did It Have to Be Me and then rescue a man in the water so he can be with his true love. Bill leaves Donna the next day on the island and will return for her. She wanders around and gets caught in a storm. She finds shelter, and a horse in trouble. Donna runs out to find help and discovers Sam [they cast really good looking men for these roles; especially Sam]. They make a deeper connection; Sam is running from his predestined life and Donna has no plan, but they’re happy. Though we can see that Sam wants to tell her something. Donna gains a job in town to sing at a local bar, auditioning with Adante, Adante after the bar owner performs Kisses of Fire. Donna is thoroughly in love with Sam and sweetly sings What’s the Name of the Game…until she finds a picture of Sam’s fiancée. She orders him away without giving him much of a chance to explain, venting Knowing Me, Knowing You.
Donna’s friends arrive to perform and to cheer her up. She discovers Mamma Mia inside herself and is even happier when Bill shows up. Rosie is jealous because Donna has already had Sam and now she gets the other cute guy as well. While Donna is out with Bill, Sam stops by, but a local woman informs him that he was cruel to Donna and does not deserve her. She is already out with another man and Sam leaves again. That same woman offers the farm house that Donna is staying at to her; she can live rent free as long as she fixes it up. Donna eagerly agrees. Then discovers she’s pregnant.
Alternatively, a story is told five years after the first movie; Donna has sadly passed, but Sophie and Sky have fixed up the hotel and are planning a Grand Opening. Except Sky is in New York City learning the hotel business and has just been offered a permanent job. Sophie wants to stay with her mother’s hotel. They can’t make a decision and One of Us will have to give something up. Rosie and Tanya luckily arrive for the celebration, but Bill and Harry are busy. Sam lives nearby and misses Donna just as much as Sophie. He encourages her however that the Grand Opening is a time to celebrate.
As the storm hits in 1979, a storm hits the set-up for the Grand Opening. And has messed with airlines, so now they have no party. Sophie fears she is letting Donna’s memory down. Everyone tells her she isn’t and Rosie and Tanya offer support about Sky. Sophie still loves him and considers his Angel Eyes. However, Bill and Harry are on their way and meet up once again at the ill-timed ferry. They’re rescued this time by the man Bill and Donna saved years ago. And with him they bring boat-loads of people singing Dancing Queen for the celebration, and Sky.
When they have a moment, Sophie tells Sky she is pregnant. And this experience is connecting her with her mother; they’re in the same place. And while Sophie has Sam and Sky; Donna had little Sophie inside her. Then everyone starts congratulating Sophie on her pregnancy; while she wanted to keep it secret and had told Sam, Sam told Bill. Bill told Harry. And Harry told many, many people. And an odd noise comes over the party; a helicopter lands and out steps, “grandmother” (Cher). Ruby Sheridan has finally decided to embrace being a “grandmother.” And serendipitously, she discovers Sophie’s manager is her lost love, Fernando (Andy Garcia).
Sophie further connects to her mother, singing You Delight Me with Rosie and Tanya. We see the birth of Sophie. Everyone reconvenes nine months later for the baptism of Sophie and Sky’s son. Sophie really wishes Donna was there and sees her spirit in the church. All three women croon My Love, My Life (brings me to tears). There is a party afterwards, Cher treating everyone to Super Trouper, but Meryl Streep returns, as does the rest of the cast; the younger counterparts teaming up with their older selves. (Sky is the main young man who can pull off those deep cut suits. I laugh at this as well).
Personally, I don’t think Cher added anything to the movie aside from being a big name; the tone of her voice doesn’t suit the music. I knew most of these songs before the show and movies, having heard them while I was growing up. I like Pierce’s dynamics with Meryl in the first movie and with Amanda in the second; definitely agree with the Donna x Sam pairing. And the Bohemian style in the second film; the flashback to the seventies, is really cute. Overall, they’re a fun pair of movies.
Up Next: Moulin Rouge