Updated: Sep 26, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
“MAMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018; PG-13 for some suggestive material; Streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Commentary with English Co-writer/Director Ol Parker
IT’S A SEQUEL that’s really a prequel to the surprise 2008 hit “Mamma Mia!” Its big cast returns, too, with distinguished newcomers Cher, Lily James and Andy Garcia.
Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, and – yes – Meryl Streep reprise their roles. Donna (Streep) has passed away, but her memory is very much alive as her daughter Sophie (Seyfried) and husband Sam (Brosnan) prepare to open her beautifully renovated dream hotel. Her unexplained death brings an air of melancholy and nostalgia to the story directed this time by co-writer Ol Parker (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” 2011).
Parker’s vision marks a change in tone and pacing. Original director Phyllida Lloyd (“The Iron Lady,” 2011, also with Streep), is a producer here, while writer Catherine Johnson helped co-write “Mamma Mia 2.” Energy and spontaneity are tempered with a more deliberately paced spectacle, although the new film remains a lot of fun. ABBA’s music still drives the story. There are new takes on “Dancing Queen,” “I Have a Dream,” “The Name of the Game,” and “Waterloo” that now join “Fernando,” “My Love, My Life,” “Angel Eyes” and many others. Viewers can join in via an “Enhanced Sing-Along” feature and “Play with Sing-Alongs” option.
“Mamma Mia 2” blends two stories, one showing how a young Donna (James) met and bedded the three men who could be Sophie’s father, and how she came to own the hotel. The other shows adult Sophie’s concerns over the hotel’s re-opening and her mother’s death as she prepares to tell Sky (Dominic Cooper) they're pregnant. Both musicals may be loaded with risqué shenanigans, but love for family, friends and faith shine through.
“Mamma Mia 2” trades Greece and Laguna Beach, California, for Croatia. It’s a distinct visual difference. The cast and film crew never went to France or other locales, Parker says in his commentary. Iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower were inserted via CGI to create a sense of place. Even so, the 2160p transfer (2.40:1 ratio) upscaled to 4K from a 2K master is a work of art. Even the 1080p looks spectacular.
The 4K transfer with HDR color has exceptionally vivid, yet nuanced color. Skin tones are bright and natural. So are exterior settings, whether in daylight or night scenes. The Mediterranean Ocean, sky and beaches look gorgeous throughout, brilliant blue and sparkling under sunlit skies. Detail is excellent from freckled faces to sequined costumes. Clarity and balance are perfect. This is reference quality work, even with the lost pixels.
One of the best scenes shows the arrival of a fleet of party-goers to Donna’s island. Sophie and Sam spot them from the hotel courtyard. They rush toward the beach to greet their guests while most of the village follows – all fabulously choreographed to “Dancing Queen.” Even Brosnan dances and sings beautifully this time out. It’s a sequence to put on repeat.
Cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, Oscar nominated for his work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), outdoes himself. Camerawork in musicals doesn’t always get the respect it deserves, but “Mama Mia 2” is first rate from start to finish.
Music, dialogue and effects are delivered through an eight-channel Dolby Atmos track, which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for other sound systems. And – wow! – both sound fantastic. Voices and instruments deliver, but we really hear the difference when Cher, as Sophie’s grandmother, appears on the scene to sing “Fernando.”
There are plenty of effects to enjoy: environmental sound in the many outdoor scenes, and party/singing/dance moments. A storm hits the hotel, a horse is trapped in a collapsing stable, a staircase comes down with a crash. There’s a distinct sense of motion throughout the speakers, while the Atmos track provides great height moments. (It’s easy to believe we’re trapped in that onscreen storm.) Dialogue is also clear and distinct.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment provides more than a dozen bonus features including two commentaries – the one with Parker, and one with Producer Judy Craymer. Both have good information, but Parker’s is largely concerned with how wonderful his cast was. Craymer’s is very serious and delivered almost in monotone.
Six deleted/extended musical performances and scenes can be played with optional commentary by Parker, and compliment the “Enhanced Sing-Alongs” feature and “Play with Sing-Along” option.
The rest are super-shorts, none much over three minutes except “The Story,” in which Craymer explains how they used “The Godfather Part II” as a model; “Choreographing ‘Mama Mia! Here We Go Again,’” with Anthony Van Laast, who also worked on the first film; and “Costumes and the Dynamos” showing the impact of 1970s fashion on Donna’s early story (gold lamé platform shoes!)
Cast interviews and compliments are showcased in “Mama Mia! Reunited”; “Playing Donna,” with Streep and James; “Sophie’s Story,” with Seyfried describes how it feels to play Sophie again after 10 years; “Meeting Cher,” where we learn Cher saw the stage version three times; “Cast Meets Cast” is a two part featurette, “Tanya Meets Tanya” and “Rosie Meets Rosie,” where the actresses talk about playing the younger and mature versions of their characters; “Curtain Call” about the revised “Super Trouper” finale; “Dancing Queen: Anatomy of a Scene”; “Cast Chats” has new cast members talking about playing younger versions of established characters focusing on the Dads and the Dynamos; “Performing for Legends,” “Class of ’79,” “TODAY Interview with Cher & Judy Craymer,” and “High Jinks,” a montage of music and outtakes.
“Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” doesn’t answer all the questions. How did Donna die? Donna’s mother isn’t the prude described in the first film; what’s up with that? Did Sophie and Sky ever really get married? They’re still together, as in love as ever and having a child. And what’s that baby’s name?
“Mama Mia” 2008 is now on Netflix for those who never saw the first movie – or those who want to relive the experience. “Mama Mia! Here We Go Again” is like an encore performance, answering most of the questions from the first film with great ABBA tunes and dance numbers against an amazing Mediterranean backdrop. If you’re looking for a feel-good experience to enjoy again and again, look no further!
— Kay Reynolds