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IN SHORT: Streep Sings! So, unfortunately, does Pierce Brosnan. [Rated PG-13 for some sex-related comments. 108 minutes]
As the hype goes: "Filled with songs by iconic supergroup ABBA that you know and love." Well, we wouldn't go that far . . . which isn't totally fair. We were in the rock radio biz when ABBA (for singers Anna, Benny, Bjorn and the other girl. Agnetha, we think.) was shooting stars over the Top 40 stations. Given the propensity of those stations to play the same song every 20 minutes, there was no place you could hide. At least the hits weren't obscenity laced cop-killer wannabe diatribes, like today.
Sometimes the old days really were better. Then again, a lot of the 70s/80s hard rockers waited for retirement to come out of the closet, so who's fooling who? With ABBA, at least, you got what you got. Pleasant toe tappers, totally disposable and, given the accents, sometimes incomprehensible songs. We once convinced a girlfriend that the song "Fernando" (which isn't in this film) was about a girl who fell for a bull, destined to be slaughtered after the famous Running of the Bulls at Pamplona, Spain.
She wasn't too smart. As opposed to a whole mess of geniuses who decided that the music of ABBA would make a great Broadway musical. Damned if they weren't right -- not that we've paid hard cash to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway -- but it ran, and still runs, like the Energizer Bunny. Since we don't compare to Source Material, having filled enough space with historical gobbledygook, on to the Main Event.
20-ish Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to marry the love of her life, Sky (Dominic Cooper), at her mom's run down hotel on the Greek island of Kalokairi. Mom Donna (Meryl Streep) has raised her kidlet as a solo act, never revealing the identity of the father. Surprise, Donna, your kid found your diary and has invited the three possible daddy's to the wedding. They would be businessman Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), who once loved Donna dearly and fled to marry another woman; banker, and former "Headbanger", Harry Bright (Colin Firth), who bought Donna her first guitar; and world traveller Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) who went off to travel the world. Convinced that she will know her true father on first sight, Sophie is flummoxed to discover that no, she can't. Donna is flummoxed to find her former paramours lodged in an obscure corner of her hotel, and she gives 'em the boot.
Mom's invited side of the aisle includes her former partners in a band called "Donna and the Dynamos", Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski). Trust us. Once you hear 'em sing you won't wonder why the world forgot about 'em. Personality wise, Rosie is still on the hunt. Tanya has landed, and left, at least three husbands. IF we follow this story correctly, this time out the pursuing shoe is on the other foot.
That's a big if. Trying to use the lyrics to ABBA songs to drive what otherwise would have written dialog is risky. It's a kind of thinking that permeated rock radio back in the same days as ABBA was hot, that using lyrics could make news stories interesting (and that was Cranky's first career. Knowing thousands of lyrics and making 'em fit. Tougher than it sounds). Remarkably, most of 'em work.
Even more remarkable, we actually found ourself singing along with one of the songs No snide remarks boyos. We walked out of Mamma Mia! thinking "No doubt about it. We're definitely straight." The book (meaning the script of the stage production) adapted to the film, is poor. The film was of more interest to the female portion of our audience and, frankly, that makes it a perfect dateflick. [unless, of course, you are part of the gay community which is already laying claim to the film, according to news reports reprinted on the IMDB. You guys are already pounding the keyboards with hate email about what we wrote two sentences back, right? Grow a spine, gents, and be glad you didn't die in The Plague like all our other gay friends did.]
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mamma Mia! , he would have paid . . .
Mamma Mia! is a dateflick. pure and simple. For dating guys, for every movie that your girl sleeps through, there will always be the one that you have to similarly endure. Smile as you do so. It makes good romantic sense.
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