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MAMMA MIA

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MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN

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(Delightful, upbeat prequel/sequel)

This is what good movie making is all about!

"Mamma Mia!" was one of the most popular Broadway musicals and subsequent movies ever conceived. Thanks to a good story line and the great ABBA songs, both musical and movie continue to draw audiences around the world. Theatre-by-the-Sea attracted record crowds this summer.

Odds were certainly against a second movie capturing our hearts (and our pocketbooks). "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" defies the odds. We sat for two hours, enthralled by the music, choreography, characters, plotline and, most important, the way the director and editors took the story of Donna and her daughter living the good life on a Greek island and made it so interesting.

Two sets of actors are used for the prequel and sequel scenes.  We meet Donna (Lily James) as a young, free-spirited woman who has flings with three young men before settling down, raising a daughter, and opening a hotel on the island. When we pick up the present story, Donna's daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is reopening the hotel in honor of her mother, inviting the three "fathers" and her two closest friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Waters) to attend the big day.

The present day characters look and act like their younger selves, even though they have aged a bit. In the super-charged finale, we see them singing and dancing side by side in a brilliant move by director Ol Parker.

Parker combines the familiar songs from "Mamma Mia!" with new ones, and they all fit perfectly into the story line. The choreography is spectacular, especially a scene where hundreds of people are heading by boat to the island.

There's a poignant ending where Sophie's daughter is baptized. But before that, we are treated to the sudden appearance of her grandmother, as Cher steals the spotlight.

The perfect spot in the movie is saved for "Fernando.” How can they fit that song into a movie set on a Greek isle? Cher and Andy Garcia show us in another show-stopper.

OK, so "Here We Go Again" is a bit schmaltzy at times. What's wrong with that?

At a time when we are bombarded with superheroes and teenager angst, we older folks need a feel-good movie that will sweep us away to a gorgeous island with spectacular singing and dancing and escaping the "real" world.

You'll have trouble getting the catchy ABBA songs out of your head, and you may find yourself going back to see this delightful movie again.

Rated PG-13, with a bit of sex and a lot of joy.

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