It’s hard to believe now, but about 30 years ago, when ABBA first appeared on the scene, their music was derided by critics and rock and roll fans alike. These folks wished ABBA would simply disappear.
Well, fast-forward to 1999 when a little jukebox musical called Mamma Mia! premiered, cobbled together around 23 of ABBA’s most memorable tunes. It opened in London and eventually metastasized into a world-conquering phenomenon, grossing about $2 billion to date.
Now, in 2008, we have Mamma Mia! the movie, and I’ll bet my stack of ABBA CDs those same fuddy duddy music critics and old rockers will be in the audience this weekend, tapping their feet along with the rest of us.
So then, is the movie any good? Well, if you’re expecting to see Oscar-worthy performances along the lines of, let’s say, Heath Ledger’s performance in that other blockbuster movie opening this weekend, you won’t see that here. (Sorry, but I’m pretty sure Meryl Streep won’t be nominated for the 15th time!) BUT, if you love ABBA and are looking to be entertained, then you’ve come to the right place.
In case you haven’t seen the Broadway show, here’s the plot: Donna Sheridan (Streep) was once a freewheeling singer and flower-child type who had a rather adventurous summer on a Greek island 20 years earlier, as her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) discovers by reading her diary. Sophie also discovers that any of three men could be her father – Harry (Colin Firth), now a rich banker; Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), a travel writer; and Sam (Pierce Brosnan), an architect and, back in the day, Donna’s true love. Unfortunately, Sam left her for his fiancee, and Donna has stayed on the island ever since, running a crumbling hotel and raising Sophie.
Now Sophie is marrying Sky (Dominic Cooper) and, to her surprise and delight, all three of her possible fathers have made the trip, although they don’t know the real reason she wants them there. Nor does Donna, who’s quite dismayed at their presence.
Also on hand are Donna’s former bandmates and pals Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Waters). Of course, weaved throughout the movie, are various ABBA tunes that serve to move the story along.
And what catchy tunes they are! Everything from “SOS” to “Money, Money, Money“ are featured here. One of the musical highlights, though, is when Streep, Baranski, and Walters get together to belt out “Dancing Queen.” Trust me – even if you’re not an ABBA fan and were dragged unwittingly into the theater, I guarantee you will find yourself tapping your toes to this one. Also, if you stay until the end credits, there’s a special treat to be had when all the cast members get together for a rousing rendition of “Waterloo.”
As for the performances, every one does their ABBA best. Streep has never looked more radiant (and she doesn’t sound bad either!); Seyfried looks and sounds incandescent; Walters and Baranski more than hold their own with La Streep, and each have solos of their own – Baranski does a bawdy rendition of ”Does Your Mother Know?”, while Walters serenades Skarsgard with a hilarious version of “Take A Chance on Me.” The three gentlemen are pretty good too, with Firth having the best voice of the three. Skarsgard is serviceable, while Brosnan, however, should just stick to acting.
As the movie was filmed on the Greek islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, moviegoers are also treated to the breathtaking scenery of turquoise waters and amazing cliffside views.
So in the end, yeah, Mamma Mia! is a tad corny and Pierce Brosnan can’t sing his way out of a bucket, but hey – it’s summer, it’s ABBA, and it’s fun!