Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again has one of the more surreal plots to come out of a recent studio movie, in that it replays the events that were already described in the first movie, and then just adds Cher. In the first few minutes of Mamma Mia!, Amanda Seyfried reads Meryl Streep’s diary and learns about how she hooked up with three different men in a short span of time, any of whom could be her father. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reenacts that story with Lily James and a bevy sprightly British twinks, because back in the present, Meryl is dead, and everyone is sad and reflective about it.
According to writer and director Ol Parker, he and Mamma Mia! producer Richard Curtis arrived at the idea for the sequel’s plot when Curtis’s daughter Scarlett suggested it “should be Godfather 2.” In theory, Scarlett probably meant this as a simple, low-key suggestion: The movie, like The Godfather: Part II, should be a sequel that’s really a prequel, moving forward by looking backward. But in practice, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is actually a mirror of the second Godfather film.
Consider that Lily James is playing a young version of the head of the family from the first movie, which makes her the Robert De Niro to the original’s Meryl Streep/Marlon Brando. Then consider these other, very real parallels between the two franchises:
1. Amanda Seyfried spends the movie shoring up her family business, a nice hotel on an island — just as Al Pacino pulls together the mob, his family business.
2. In The Godfather: Part II, Robert De Niro travels to an unknown country (America), after his old world (Italy) starts to feel unsafe. In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Lily James travels to an unknown country (Greece), leaving behind her old world (the U.K.) because she kissed her teacher, or something.
3. In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Amanda Seyfried’s plans to reopen her mother’s hotel go wrong when an unexpected factor (a storm) intervenes. In The Godfather: Part II, Al Pacino’s plans to take over as his family’s Don go wrong when an unexpected factor (a storm) intervenes.
4. The Godfather: Part II introduces a new actor (Lee Strasberg) who works with Al Pacino, and then reveals that he’s actually plotting against him. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again introduces a new actor (Andy García) who works with Amanda Seyfried, and then reveals he’s actually her grandmother’s ex-lover Fernando, as evidenced by the song “Fernando.”
5. In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Amanda Seyfried’s relationship with her paramour from the first movie (Dominic Cooper) is going poorly because he’s off in America taking classes about hotel management. (They get back together; it’s a comedy.) In The Godfather: Part II, Al Pacino’s relationship with her paramour from the first movie (Diane Keaton) is going poorly because she’s trying to escape his criminal life by faking a miscarriage and taking his children away. (They do not get back together; it is not a comedy.)
6. In The Godfather movies, complex interior drama is punctuated sudden bursts of violence. In the Mamma Mia! movies, complex interior drama is punctuated by sudden bursts of ABBA.
7. In Christian theology, “God” is represented as a holy trinity that exists together and yet separately. In Mamma Mia!, Sophie’s father is also a trinity of men that exist together and yet separately. She has a Godfather.
8. Both the Mamma Mia! franchise and The Godfather are obsessed with baptisms. During The Godfather’s, nearly everyone in the movie dies. In the other, Meryl shows up, and nearly everyone in the audience dies.
9. The Godfather replays its biggest hits (that baptism scene) with another scene in the sequel (a first communion). Mamma Mia! literally replays its biggest hits (the ABBA songs “Mamma Mia!” and “Dancing Queen”) in its sequel.
Given all that conclusive evidence, we can all agree these two movies are exactly the same and no one will be mad at the very idea of this comparison.