**WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST INCLUDES A RUDDY BIG SPOILER FOR MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE AND WANT TO REMAIN SPOILER-FREE (AND YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY WORKED OUT WHAT THAT SPOILER IS) THEN STOP READING NOW.**

When it was announced that Mamma Mia! (2008) was getting a sequel, I must admit I was very, very sceptical. As much as I enjoyed the original, the idea of a sequel suggested that we were in for a quick cash grab and nothing more.

I could not have been more wrong.

I’ve just got back from an early morning screening of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and I LOVED it! Not only is the movie as much fun as the first, in my opinion it’s much better, with a stronger story and a real warmth that fills the screen throughout.

Mamma Mia! was great escapism, but it was frothy at best. I say this as someone who genuinely liked the movie but understands it is what it is – an excuse to put ABBA songs on the big screen.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is so much more. It still has froth, but there’s more substance and that was something I didn’t expect.

The big spoiler I warned about in the opening of this post is connected to Meryl Streep’s character. Yes, as alluded to in the trailers (if you were paying attention), Donna Sheridan is dead.

Donna’s death is made clear from the very start of the movie and while it takes a moment to process the idea that Streep won’t be taking part in the story, it soon becomes very apparent that she is still very much the story. Killing off the character instantly gives this film a purpose, to a.) look back at Donna’s life via flashbacks and b.) look forward at the legacy she has created.

Through the use of flashbacks the movie fills in story gaps discussed in the first film, while allowing for the original cast to get back together for the present day storyline. And when everyone is back together, it feels like a family reunited, rather than a collection of actors on another jolly, lapping up the sun and just phoning everything in, as they easily could have done.

What’s more, early on it seems like various cast members won’t be taking part, only to pull back the curtain during the third act to reveal they’re all still involved. Yes, ALL of them.

There is so much about this movie that I loved, from the song choices (which felt less forced this time around – well, mostly), to the heavily promoted appearance of Cher who looks fabulous. Sure, she’s not in the movie as much as I would have liked, but then maybe she could be invited back for a third film?

The standout star of the picture is Amanda Seyfried, who really takes charge of this film. As an actress, Seyfried demonstrates how much she’s grown and her character really feels like the centrepiece of the story.

Lily James is also perfect as the young Donna, effortlessly taking over from Seyfried when it’s time for the flashback sequences, of which there are many. In fact, the film is about 50% flashback, but this, like Donna’s death is very important to the story so it’s all good.

While Streep might not be in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again all that much, the film crafts enough story to make you feel like she’s there, leading up to an emotional finale. Yes, I will admit it – I cried.

By the end of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, I was in tears – real, genuine tears. I knew it would happen, I tried to hold back, but I couldn’t help it, there was emotion there and it was as a result of a captivating two hours filled with laughs, love and family.

A Mamma Mia! sequel should not be this good, it should be the Shock Treatment (1981) to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975); or the Grease 2 (1982) to Grease (1978). But it’s not. Instead, it’s The Empire Strikes Back (1980) to Star Wars (1977).

I now want to watch it again.