WARNING: This is article contains a slight spoiler from Mamma Mia 2
Streep was the leading lady of the first film playing Donna, a single mother preparing for her daughter’s wedding day but unprepared for the arrival of three men – either of which could be said daughter’s father. The actress proved once again why she might just be the greatest actress alive, showcasing the singing prowess that had previously been seen in Postcards from the Edge and Death Becomes Her.
When the sequel was announced, Streep was confirmed to return along with the rest of the original cast, and her name even got the coveted “and…” billing on the marketing. However, every trailer leading up to the movie’s release barely even featured Donna and the cast and crew worked pretty hard to keep a layer of ambiguity over her role too.
The question of her absence is soon answered though, in the opening act of the sequel, where we learn that Donna had sadly passed away a year earlier, leaving Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie to finish off her mother’s work by reopening the farmhouse as a luxury hotel. This means, of course, Meryl barely appears in the movie, only popping up for around 5-10mins which some people might feel cheated by.
It’s not the first time an actor’s involvement in a movie has been overegged; many expected Mark Hamill to have a bigger role in The Force Awakens because of the way Disney marketed the movie, and the iconic original cast’s return it, but he only showed up at the very end and didn’t even say anything. Of course, Luke Skywalker played a significant role in The Last Jedi but for Star Wars fans eager to see him, Leia and Han Solo on screen together it was a bit of an anticlimax.
The same could be said for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom because of Jeff Goldblum’s return as Dr. Ian Malcolm. To be fair to director JA Bayona, he did warn fans that Goldblum’s addition to the Jurassic World sequel would be more of a cameo and that wasn’t an understatement.
Malcolm appears at the beginning and the end of the movie, but he was still as much a part of the promotional tour as the leading stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Despite Bayona’s candour, Goldblum’s lack of screen time and involvement in the plot was sorely felt, though that’s not the case for Streep’s near-absence in Mamma Mia 2.
This musical sequel is not part of a massive, overarching narrative that reaches to the far corners of a cinematic universe for meaning and understanding. It’s actually just a threadbare story that leaves a lot of room for people to sing some Abba bangers, and that’s all the entertainment you need from it.
It’s not moving the story on much from the original, and all you’re really getting from the flashbacks is a repeat of information you already knew from the first film: Donna shagged three lads over a couple of weeks but she decided to raise the child on her own on a Greek island.
What you do get is stunning musical performances from Lily James and the younger versions of her pals, Tania and Rosie, and a proper showstopping rendition of “Waterloo.” In present day we get Cher doing an unforgettable performance of “Fernando” and Christine Baranski doing what she does best: stealing every scene with a naughty one-liner.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is really a summer palette cleanser for the string of heavy-duty movies like Sicario 2: Soldado, The First Purge and First Reformed that have been released in recent weeks and it doesn’t need Meryl Streep in every scene to make you enjoy it.
It does this by, once again, showcasing an array of Abba’s timeless songs, delivering hilarious performances and urging the audience to take one look and forget everything, every preconceived notion of what makes a good movie, so you won’t resist the great fun Mamma Mia 2 wants you to have.