GENRE: Feel-good musical
THE PITCH: Bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) invites the three men who may be her father (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) to her wedding on a sunny Greek island, without telling her single mother, Donna (Meryl Streep). Oh, and it's a musical set to the tunes of Swedish supergroup ABBA.
MONEY SHOTS: Donna leads the female cast across the island during "Dancing Queen." Donna's super-cougar pal Tanya (Christine Baranski) knocks the young hunks dead with "Does Your Mother Know" on the beach. "Sleeping Through My Fingers" offers a lovely montage of mother-daughter bonding. Greek locales such as the mountainous backdrop in Streep's near-operatic version of "The Winner Takes It All" prove so gorgeous, they nearly upstage the songs. The farcical revelations at the wedding play well for such an old gag.
MUSICAL CHOPS: Well, the three leading males can barely sing. Brosnan sounds like karaoke night at the corner pub, although Firth croons an adorably low-key intro for "Our Last Summer." Streep probably couldn't carry a Broadway show, but has more than enough presence and vocal power for the film. Sweet Seyfried and belting Baranski impress the most.
BEST LINE: "I won't be muscled out by an ejaculation!" says Donna, refusing to let her past romances ruin her enjoyment of Sophie's wedding.
WORST LINE: "It's not about finding your father, it's about finding yourself," complains Sophie's fiancé, Sky (Dominic Cooper), but none of the personal subplots particularly hold our interest.
FASHION STATEMENTS: Streep, Baranski and Julie Walters don full glam-disco drag, including feathery epaulettes and platform boots for numbers such as "Super Trouper" and "Waterloo." The three males wear hilarious hippie outfits in flashbacks. Streep really works the plain, blue overalls she wears for the film's first third.
FLESH FACTORY: Skarsgård moons the camera while wearing an apron and nothing else. The camera drinks in plenty of bathing-suited bodies, particularly Baranski's mile-high gams. The everyone-on-the-dancefloor finale features spraying water and a virtual "wet he-shirt" contest.
FUN FACTS: The show's creators (including director Phyllida Lloyd and writer Catherine Johnson, who both adapted the film) loosely based the material on a 1968 Gina Lollobrigida comedy Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell. Actual ABBA references are practically nonexistent, unless you count the Swedishness of Skarsgård's role.
HOW GAY IS IT? It's actually not as gay as you'd expect from an adaptation of a hit musical of ABBA songs. Several numbers push the costumed campiness to the hilt; one character comes out of the closet; and in the gayest moment, Sky's bachelor buddies dance in trunks and swim fins on a dock. But its true target audience seems to be women of a certain age. It should've opened on Mother's Day.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Mamma Mia! frequently equates making a fun movie with showing the cast having a fun time, which isn't the same thing. It plays to the strengths of Streep's star power, those beautiful settings and the catchy ABBA songs that you can't resist, no matter how hard you try. But where's "Knowing Me, Knowing You?"
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