But How Gay is ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

 

What is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? If you’re a living gay person, chances are you’ve seen the original Mamma Mia! at some point in the last decade. If you haven’t, then you’ve probably been shamed for not watching it. Either way, you know what it is: a musical with a “who’s the daddy?” plot set to the music of ABBA. The first movie was adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, but for this 10-years-later sequel, writer/director Ol Parker made up the story from scratch.

The movie has been compared to The Godfather II, and that’s not as absurd a parallel as you’d think. The structures are similar: We see Sophie, daughter of original film protagonist Donna, launching a hotel in her mother’s memory after her passing. But in flashbacks, we get Donna’s origin story: how she came to this particular Grecian island in the first place, and how she came to meet and sleep with the three men who could potentially be Sophie’s father. The film alternates between past and present, linking them up at the end in a riotous final performance of “Super Trouper.” That finale is worth the price of admission alone — it’s one of the most joyous things I’ve ever seen on film — but in truth, the whole movie is much deeper and more melancholy than the first. It’s not as much of a romp, but there’s some actual fine cinematic moments in Here We Go Again.

Who’s in it? Amanda Seyfried and Lily James split the protagonistic burden as Sophie and flashback Donna, while adult Donna (Meryl Streep) only appears in the film’s final 15 minues. The old cast is full of returnees from the first: Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth as Sophie’s three dads, and Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as Donna’s best friends. (Like in the first film, Baranski steals the whole damn show, and coins the phrase “Be still my beating vagina” in the process.)

Joining James in the flashbacks are Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies as the young versions of Baranski and Walters. (Wynn’s Baranski impression is so dead on, it’s eerie.) The young suitors, on the other hand, are played by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan. But the two biggest additions to the film exist only in the present timeline: Cher as Sophie’s grandmother Ruby, and Andy Garcia as Sophie’s hotel manager Fernando Cienfuegos. To say anything about how those two characters come together would be a spoiler, but just know it is a veritable erupting volcano of sexual chemistry.

Why should I see it? It’s Mamma Mia! It’s bonkers musical cinema with more gay scream-worthy moments than any other movie you’ll see this year. It’s up there with Book Club as not necessarily the best movies of the summer, but certainly the most iconic.

But how gay is it? Just the absolute gayest. It’s ABBA songs. It’s Colin Firth as a gay dad. It’s Hugh Skinner as baby Colin Firth comparing losing his virginity to a woman to “Waterloo.” It’s Christine Baranski saying all men are trash while pouring tea. It’s horny legend Andy Garcia. It’s motherfucking Cher. This is our gay fantasia on national themes, and we need it now more than ever.

I’m confused, this sounds like a riot, but you also called it melancholy? It’s vast and contains multitudes. Don’t let the bittersweet stuff discourage you. While it certainly has its quieter and subtler moments, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again knows just when it’s getting too sad and launches into another absurd musical number. For every “My Love, My Life,” there’s an “Angeleyes.” For every “Andante, Andante,” there’s a “When I Kissed the Teacher.” And all the big songs from the first movie are back: “Super Trouper,” “Mamma Mia,” and of course, “Dancing Queen.”

Is Andy Garcia hotter in this or in Book Club? Honestly, I don’t even think they’re comparable? In Book Club, he was laid back Arizona vibes, the type to smoke a blunt and skinny dip. Here, he’s more buttoned up, but oozes sex appeal. I can’t believe we’re in a summer of Andy Garcia being the hottest man in film, but here we are indeed!

Last question: Is Cher perfect in this? Sublime beyond measure.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is in theaters now.


 

Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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