Mamma Mia! – Review

Diggin’ the dancing queen.

Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Notable Cast: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski

It is easy to predict what critics’ main gripe about Mamma Mia! will be: without ABBA the movie wouldn’t be any good. Well, duh! The whole reason Mamma Mia! exists is to celebrate the wonderfully infectious music of everyone’s favorite Swedish foursome. Throw in giddy performances from the enthusiastic cast and some great set pieces and you’ve got yourself a formula that should leave a smile on everyone’s face.

That is, unless your favorite ABBA song is “Fernando”, then you may be disappointed. Honestly, the bride to be, Sophie (Amada Seyfried), invites three men who could be her father to her big, fat, musical, Greek wedding and not one of them is named Fernando? The song title is plain as day! But that is a minor complaint from someone who knew what he was getting into because either you’re there for the music or you must not have been able to get tickets to The Dark Knight.

That ABBA’s catalog is able to generate and carry the plot of an entire film is more a testament to their talents than any of the filmmakers. When the story isn’t tripping over its own inane, illogical, self, it is completely lost in the background of any one of the numerous show-stopping musical numbers. But those numbers look good, sound great, and are delivered with over the top ham and cheese by the surprisingly capable cast.

One would be remiss not to recognize Meryl Streep’s energetic turn as Mamma Mia herself, Donna. She has seemed revitalized in her last few roles and Mamma Mia! is as much a public love letter to her as it is to ABBA. So it seems the film would not be a total loss without “Dancing Queen” and the like, but without Streep it would be a black hole of stupidity and tedium. It sort of is anyway, but gosh if the whole proceedings aren’t the most fun you’ll have this side of an actual wedding.

But critics will tell you that movies are not supposed to be fun or smile-inducing, they are supposed to be artful and profound and perfect, which Mamma Mia! is not. But the nay saying should be saved for something that does not live up to audiences exact expectations. There is no need to begrudge a film for having fun and thus being fun to watch. To dislike Mamma Mia! is to fight one’s own instincts. The sentiment is right in the title song: “my, my how could [we] resist ya?”


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