Stephanie Smith: Mamma Mia, the happy antidote to our tricky times

Live and singing Fernando: Cher as Ruby Sheridan. PA Photo/Universal Pictures/Jonathan Prime.
Live and singing Fernando: Cher as Ruby Sheridan. PA Photo/Universal Pictures/Jonathan Prime.
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“Somebody up there has got it in for me. I bet it’s my mother,” says Donna, aka Meryl Streep, in Mamma Mia.

Then along comes Mamma Mia 2: Here we Go Again, and what do you know, not only is Donna’s mother not dead, she’s actually Cher, admittedly looking a little frozen in places, but very much alive – and singing Fernando. Genius.

We’ll find out for sure when Mamma Mia 2 opens in cinemas this Friday. The premiere was in London on Monday and so far the critics seem agreed that, like the first, it’s a camp, hilarious, feel-good, utterly ridiculous romp of a film. They snootily mauled Mamma Mia, which then took half a billion pounds. They are taking care also not to give too much away in terms of plot, which makes me wonder if there is some truth to the rumours that Donna (Streep) has died – there’s a clip of Rosie (Julie Walters) telling Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), “Your mother was the bravest person we ever knew.” Nooooo. Then again, death is clearly a relative concept in the Mamma Mia franchise.

Age is but a number too, and not one to be examined closely. Mamma Mia 2 sees 72-year-old Cher play mother to 69-year-old Streep. In real time, Streep would have been a 37-year-old mother to Seyfried, now 32 – not exactly a confused ingénue unable to keep track of boyfriends and birth control.

Apparently, Streep’s screen-time in Mamma Mia 2 is significantly less than in Mamma Mia, and there are flashbacks to the circumstances surrounding the conception of Sophie, with Downton’s Lily James playing the young Donna. Reports are that she sings well, performing on 11 of the 18 songs, including Name of the Game. This has to be an improvement on Streep, who touchingly murdered The Winner Takes It All in the first. Not that anyone minded. I’ve read that Pierce Brosnan has two songs again. Bravo!

It’s undeniably impressive that all the original main cast members have reunited, 10 years on. As with the first film, the budget wasn’t massive. It’s shot in Croatia this time, not Skopelos, which does seem a shame, but then the newly done-up hotel is said to look very World of Interiors –another reason to go see.

As with the first, it seems that only joy comes from this film. There must have been tricky negotiations and timings to sort, but they did it. Everyone wanted to work together again, newcomers were welcomed, there’s been little or no bitching – and, by the sounds of it all, a happy outcome has been achieved. Politicians should take note.

Brosnan says Mamma Mia 2 is “a great antidote to the times we lives in”. Cher says it’s “fun at a time that we need fun”. I say: “My my, how can I resist ya?”