Robin’s review published on Letterboxd:
Please don't be alarmed, I don't hate fun and happiness I swear.
I think my opinion and criticism of this primarily stems from a fairly strong attachment to the first film, which has grown stronger than ever over the last week. In many ways this just could not compete even though I really wanted it to.
I feel like the prequel aspects of the movie had a lot of potential, I may have even enjoyed that being entirely its own movie. The songs that are in the past section that were in the first are utilized differently so it's a lot of fun to hear songs you know already in a new way. Waterloo was probably my favorite point of the movie; it brought the comedy, the music, and a whole lot of fun. All of the music numbers were very fun, I preferred the ones that I was already familiar with. Even when the first movie came out I already knew all the songs because I had seen the musical on tour. So this had songs I didn't know, which is a little tougher for me to get into.
Lily James is the only actor in the past portion (and perhaps the entire movie) who gets a full-fledged character to play and she really kills it. People had told me before the movie that she does a good job at being a young Meryl and I was a little confused with what that could
possibly entail, but whatever it does entail she did it amazingly. She did a great job of having a similar energy and personality. I loved her singing and dancing too.
I just wish either part of the movie had been more of its own movie because neither really had a full plot arc but added together they didn't quite make a full arc either. The past portion did a fair amount of storytelling, but at some point it felt like it was just speeding through the story of the men (with particular emphasis on Sam) and I wish there had been more fun brand new scenes like "I Kissed A Teacher" as well as a more standalone conflict/lesson. Similarly I felt like the present portion was really focused on the conflict and didn't get to have enough fun. I wanted way more adult Bill and Harry than we got.
Some of the callbacks to the first movie felt a little too fan-service and some just didn't hold quite the same charm. I really did love the "Dancing Queen" scene but I couldn't help but think it fell just a little short of the first one. But in other cases they worked! I did like the continued jokes about Harry's spontaneity, I thought that was really good callback execution.
A lot of this movie I really did like. Unfortunately it's just really tough for a sequel to live up to the original so many years removed. And I just really missed the female-directed feeling of the first one. I think when I rewatch it more on its own my qualms will settle and I'll fully love it.