The delirious sight of Meryl Streep leading a river of multigenerational women singing "Dancing Queen" is one of the high points of Mamma Mia!
, the musical built around the songs of the hugely popular pop group ABBA. The plot sets in motion when Sophie (Amanda Seyfried, Mean Girls
), daughter of Donna (Streep), sends a letter to three men, inviting them to her wedding--because after reading her mother's diary, she suspects that one of them is her father. When all three arrive at the Greek island where Donna runs a hotel, Donna flips out and finds that passions she thought she'd laid aside are coming back to life. But let's face it, the plot is not the point--it's a ridiculous contrivance that provides an excuse for the characters to sing the massive hits of ABBA. Regrettably, first-time film director Phyllida Lloyd (who directed the original stage production) has drawn over-the-top performances from everyone involved, even Streep; every production number hammers its exuberance into your eyeballs. Which is too bad, because Mamma Mia!
is a rarity: A middle-aged love story. The kids start things off, but the story is really about Streep and the three guys (former James Bond Pierce Brosnan, former Mr. Darcy Colin Firth, and Swedish star Stellan Skarsgard), as well as Donna's best friends (Christine Baranski, best known from the TV show Cybill
, and Julie Walters, Calendar Girls
). It's a romantic comedy aimed at the people who were around when all these songs were new, and that's an age group Hollywood largely ignores. For that alone, Mamma Mia!
deserves to find an audience. --Bret Fetzer
became a Broadway smash when it hit Broadway back in 2001. With a story framed around the music of the Swedish pop band Abba, crowds loved its raucous, dance party vibe. Now it comes to the silver screen, with some truly delightful performances from the likes of Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan. It is the story of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman living on a picturesque Greek island with her mother, Donna (Streep). Together, Donna and Sophie run a ramshackle island inn, and they are in the midst of preparing for Sophie's wedding. As the wedding approaches, Sophie becomes troubled by the fact that she has never known her father. She was the result of one of her mother's summer flings, and her mother has never revealed her father's identity. When Sophie stumbles upon her mother's diary, she learns that there are three possible men who could be her dad. Without telling her mother, she invites all three to her wedding. When Harry (Colin Firth), Sam (Brosnan), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) all arrive at the same time, Donna is of course shocked and overwhelmed by seeing her old lovers again after such a long time. She turns to her two best friends, Tanya (Christine Baranaki) and Rosie (Julia Walters), for their support, and vows to just get through the wedding and weekend. Meanwhile, Sophie spends time with each man, determined to learn the truth.
Major hi-jinks and confusion ensues, all amidst the utterly romantic scenery, and the rather irresistible, swelling love ballads. Streep has a lovely singing voice, and to watch her throw herself into this whimsical role is truly a delight. She looks like she is having a ball, and it is hard not to shimmy along with her. Baranski reliably delivers an over-the-top showstopper, and Brosnan's tender singing voice makes his character all the more touching. The film strives to be a jubilant celebration of mother/daughter relationships and the love between good friends, and it is hard to resist its many charms.