Mamma Mia!
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Written by Catherine Johnson

Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters

 

Mamma Mia!

Who knew that Meryl Streep could sing? Well, maybe we did because of her work in "Prairie Home Companion." But who knew that she could shimmy and shake with the best of them? Now we do, because she's having such a great time as the middle-aged mother in "Mamma Mia!" I'd seen the show, thought the ABBA songs were terrific - I know that dates me - but didn't think all that much of the book, which is about as contrived as it's possible to be and still be playable on a stage.

Streep runs a small hotel on a Greek island, and her daughter Rosie (Amanda Seyfried in the film), who's never known who her father is, finds her mother's diary from back in the day, where she reveals that in a two-week period she slept with three different men, any of whom could be the father; now Rosie is going to marry and surreptitiously invites all three men to the wedding, feeling sure that she can pick out the right one. That's basically the story, as the men, now quite middle-aged (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard), all show up - well, if you're at all sentient, as I'm certain you are, you can't help but know how it comes out; one of them will end up marrying Meryl Streep, and why not?

In the meantime, there are lots of complications as Julie tries to keep the men under wraps till the wedding; what's fascinating to me about the show is that all the ABBA songs have relevance to the plot and characters - a rare treat for us all.

The film is a little slow to get off the ground, but when it does it really moves. There are even love songs between Pierce Brosnan and Streep, and Rosie and her fiancÚ, as well as lots of dancing - not so great, but appropriate in the context of the script. But director Phyllida Lloyd lets the film build and build to the climax at a stunning old church on a pinnacle of the island (all the outdoor shots were done in Greece). And the dance over the final credits is absolutely delicious. If I were a critic who gave stars out, I'd give it four of them.

7/18/08