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The reviews are in: "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" is better than the original
(Left to right) Young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn), Young Donna (Lily James) and Young Rosie (Alexa Davies) in "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again." Ten years after "Mamma Mia! The Movie," moviegoers are invited to return to the magical Greek island of Kalokairi in an all-new original musical based on the songs of ABBA. - photo by Jonathan Prime, Universal Picture

"Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" comes out Friday, and according to the reviews, it’s even better than the original.

“'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' is a joyful, blissed-out summer treat so sunny that audiences should apply SPF 30 before entering the theater,” wrote Mara Reinstein in the Us Weekly review.

The current Rotten Tomatoes ranking for the second movie is 81 percent — far above the 54 percent the original earned for its vivacious but disjointed plot and notoriously bad singing from Pierce Brosnan.

The new movie is a mixture of a prequel and a sequel, years after the first movie when Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has transformed her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) Grecian villa into a hotel and some of the cast reunites for its opening, but it also flashes back to Donna’s (played by Lily James) young, hippie life when she met the three men who are candidates to be Sophie’s father.

There are 11 new musical numbers (still all ABBA, don’t worry), as well as an appearance by Cher and, as we learn from the trailers, Sophie is pregnant.

As Nicholas Barber wrote for BBC, “'Mamma Mia! The Movie' was one of the biggest hits of 2008. It made a whopping £466 million ($610 million) at the box office and went on to become Britain’s fastest selling DVD ever. None of that changes the fact, however, that the film was awful.”

But the pre/sequel, with a new director, Ol Parker, appears to give a little more substance to the synthetic fabric and feather boas.

Here’s what the critics have to say.

On how the films compare:

“'Here We Go Again' is a viewing experience best described as a long nap on the beach while staying at a chain resort. It’s extremely pleasant, if a little lacking in imagination, and every so often, a waiter comes by to refill your drink.” — David Sims, The Atlantic

"To be clear, 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' is still just an excuse to sing along to those catchy ABBA tunes, but there’s an emotional depth that separates it from the original film and makes it more worth the while." — Lottie Johnson, Deseret News

“‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is that rare and wonderful thing: A sequel that surpasses its predecessor in every way.” — Sean P. Means, The Movie Cricket

“In Parker's hands, the sequel is far more grounded and melodramatic, lacking some of the rambunctious pop and fizz Lloyd brought to ‘Mamma Mia,’ the cinematic equivalent of trucker speed. There's a lot less running and singing, and singing while running, but there is, of course, a flotilla of boats filled with people enthusiastically performing choreography to ‘Dancing Queen.’” — Katie Walsh, The Chicago Tribune

“The follow-up doesn’t quite have the same boisterous anything-goes atmosphere, so it may not be such a massive success. But, unlike 'Mamma Mia! The Movie,' it is a halfway competent film, and that has to count for something. … What you lose in boozy bad behaviour you gain in youthful freedom, optimism and toned abs.” — Nicholas Barber, BBC

“'Here We Go Again' is superior yet still extraordinarily cheesy. … Fluid transitions between the two stories are pretty nonexistent. At the same time, there’s a bubblegum sweetness the movie embraces that’s appealing despite its faults.” — Brian Truitt, USA Today

On Brosnan’s singing in the new film:

“Brosnan isn’t called on to sing much here — either a positive or a negative, depending on your taste for high-enthusiasm, low-competence honking.” — Ben Travis, Empire

“Brosnan is still no Sinatra.” — Brian Truitt, USA Today

“This time out, he reprises the same song he so mercilessly pummeled in the first film, but much more gently, more briefly and in a melancholy key, which rather neatly serves to cauterize the wound and keep the infection from spreading to the rest of the film.” — Glen Weldon, NPR

On the new music selections:

“While the plot of 'Here We Go Again' hits some occasional bum notes, another soundtrack of ABBA classics hits almost all the right ones.” — Ben Travis, Empire

“That old ABBA magic can make even a middling movie that much better.” — Brian Truitt, USA Today

“The selections end up being more Broadway-esque hits than much of the original’s soundtrack.” — Emily Yoshida, Vulture

On Lily James as the young Donna:

“'Here We Go Again' is illuminated by James’s star quality. … In contrast with certain members of the cast, she can actually sing.” — Nicholas Barber, BBC

“James is the ringer of the company.” — Brian Truitt, USA Today

“The radiant James, a former big-screen Cinderella, is the biggest winner of all. She’s pure sunshine.” — Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly

“There’s never a moment the camera catches her failing to sell a number with all her heart.” — Emily Yoshida, Vulture

In conclusion, most reviewers agree this movie, no matter how well or poorly it’s done, will bring droves of fun-loving, brightly dressed people to the theater.

“When it comes to seeing this movie, it’s likely you made your mind up long ago,” wrote Sims. “You know if you’re its target audience.”

Or, as one fan on Twitter wrote, “Someone asked me today if I think 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again' will be a 'good movie' and I’ve never heard a more irrelevant question in my life.”

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