Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Mama Mia

This may be Lily James’ movie, but the fireworks (literally) don’t begin until the veterans take the stage.

It’s no secret anymore that Meryl Streep’s Donna, the cog in the first go round, is now dead. Her beloved daughter, Sophie, (Amanda Seyfried) has built a new hotel on the Greek island in honor of her mom, to be managed by the baby boom heartthrob of the celluloid summer, Andy Garcia. One of her Daddies, Pierce Brosnan, shows up for the big opening, which happens just as boyfriend Sky (Dominic Cooper) bails and a huge storm blows away all the plans. And, off we go.

Told in flashback, this chapter is primarily, in its first half, anyway, a look back as to how Donna got to the island and had her baby. Lily James, all bouncy curls and appealing voice, handles the heavy lifting with aplomb and a few too many arm-flailing “whee”s for my taste. But director Ol Parker keeps the story rolling along, as Donna leaves her college besties and meets the three men who may or may not be Sophie’s biological father.

It’s all fine, nicely staged production numbers of some familiar Abba and some stuff that’s deeper into the playbook. But then, about halfway through, we get a taste of what is to come. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski team with Seyfried for a show stopping number that is top notch. Then, a devilish Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth (delicious again, dancing awkwardly in his white button down shirt) show up. And yes, we do get to see Streep, all too briefly, in a genuinely moving and beautiful duet with Seyfried. But, really, all of this is just the warm up. Because, wait for it, here comes Cher.

Yes, Cher does show up, channeling an inner Lady Gaga. But all that’s tossed away when she opens her mouth, zings her zings and sings her sings. May the next Mamma movie give Cher an even closer close up, which promises to be the hoot we all have earned.