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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

From left, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski reminisce in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."

Cher is the reason to see "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." But she doesn't turn up until the sequel's very end.

Then, she sings "Fernando" and joins in the fun of a group number (in which her peers aren't very good at singing and dancing).

The wait isn't worth it.

A prequel of sorts to the first film, it attempts to show how Donna (Meryl Streep) wound up with a hotel in Greece and three potential baby daddies. Since Streep isn’t quite able to pull off a character who’s more than 25 years younger, writer/director Ol Parker cast Lily James in the role and a trio of hunky young men as her suitors. None is exactly Broadway-worthy.

Meanwhile, Donna’s daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), deals with her own situation and gets some of the film's toughest songs. She’s fine, but there’s so much editing in this film it’s difficult to figure out who’s doing what. Scenes from the 1970s morph into scenes from the 2000s. It’s enough to make you kick off your platform shoes and just dance.

The flashbacks come when Sophie is planning a big relaunch for the Hotel Bella Donna. She reminisces about her mother’s first days there and, in no time, it’s 1970-something. That’s where James takes over. She meets the three men (who, ultimately, are played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard), and gets the wild idea she’s going to stay in Greece and open a hotel.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

From left, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Pierce Brosnan reunite in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."

Parker, however, doesn’t dwell too long on conversation. Much of his story is merely filler between songs. Some strain to fit the plot (“Waterloo”), while others just give the choreographer a chance to hire anyone who can remotely dance. There are lots of big production numbers and enough bouncy second-tier hits to make you want to sing along.

Brosnan tries to sing and dance but succeeds about as well as he did in the first film. Far better are Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as Streep’s friends, who wouldn’t miss the relaunch for the world. (Never mind that it takes a village to get folks to the remote hotel.)

Considering he has a cast that’s larger than the one employed on “Game of Thrones,” Parker handles the traffic jam quite well. The origins story is interesting but hardly extensive. Had he ditched some of the second-class ABBA songs, there might have been time to explore.

Cher makes the most of “Fernando,” even though Andy Garcia (as the man in question) shouldn’t have played the role.

All in good fun, “Here We Go Again” isn’t the worst film of the year. But it strains from the desire of producers to squeeze money from a concept that wasn’t all that special the first time we saw it.

Cher and share alike.

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