A "Mamma"-load of fun

July 21, 2008, midnight | By Fran Djoukeng | 15 years, 11 months ago

"Mamma Mia!” weds pipes and pizzazz to move ABBA to the theaters

American ABBA fans will be ABBA-solutely merry with the most entertaining party of the summer, all on film. This feature-film adaptation of the beloved musical, complete with an all-star cast, alluring scenery and all-too-catchy songs puts "Mamma Mia!" in a lively light. "How you thrill me," shouts the song "Honey, Honey," and it is the sentiment that will follow moviegoers home about the Broadway hit that shines on the big screen.

The thrilling journey begins on the eve of Sophie Sheridan's (Amanda Seyfried) wedding on the magical Greek island Kalokairi. The bride-to-be feels a part of her is missing because she wants her father to give her away but her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) is unsure of his paternity. Secretly, Sophie invites three possible dads from her mother's past to the wedding. Unaware that her past lovers circa 21 years ago have arrived for the wedding, an unsettled Donna would rather they leave her hotel, Villa Donna. Believing she would know her father the instant she met him, Sophie is confused when all three candidates: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), simultaneously arrive and each individually profess to be her father. When Sophie admits her secret to her fiancée Sky (Dominic Cooper), the "big, white wedding" she always dreamed of takes a different aisle. Nevertheless, Villa Donna is the site of a celebration all in the name of love and romance.

"Mamma Mia!" is simply a star-studded rendition of the highly successful musical based on the chart-topping songs of Swedish group ABBA. The stars of this cast - each big name turning heads as unexpected musical talents - create a lovely picture of bliss, as picturesque as the Mediterranean shores of the sunlit island. Streep is perfect for her role and makes magical moments, especially with her female band, Donna and the Dynamos. The choice of Streep to head this movie is definitely wise, but those who have admired the career of the Oscar-winner will be slightly surprised. If Streep's performance as the cold-hearted boss from hell in 2006's "The Devil Wear's Prada," is imprinted on your mind, that will change when Streep becomes the carefree, independent and overall-clad Donna.

Another surprise star is leading lady Seyfried: ditch the ditzy impression the blonde gave in "Mean Girls," for a dazzling girl with a deep heart and deep talent. Likewise, Brosnan is an unexpected movie-musical actor - and he should stick to what he's good at. If a toned-to-perfection Agent 007 is the image he brings to mind, then fans will do a double-take when they see a scruffy, rather tuned-out performer.

Singing performances are as stellar as the sensation ABBA created back in the 70s and 80s. The ladies in the film steal the microphone with the popular hits. Donna and the Dynamos (Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters) are as dynamic as their name, performing the still-popular hit "Dancing Queen," - watch for Donna's mid-air split.

Seyfried stuns the audience with her angelic voice on several numbers including "I Have a Dream." Likewise, Streep, dominating several numbers, captivates the audience with her operatic voice to "Mamma Mia" and "Money, Money, Money."

By contrast, the male voices in the film are not as great, especially considering ABBA consisted of two male singers. Brosnan needs to brush up on his chords because his pipes were more cacophonous than charming. It didn't help that the choreography in some numbers is less than impressive, needing much more sparkle.

On the other hand, the backdrop for the film, an island thought to be the home of love Goddess Aphrodite, is surely memorable. The wedding shot is breathtaking: lighted steps leading up towards a small white church on top of a green hillside against glistening seawaters. Just imagine boys dancing to "Take a Chance on Me" on a sun-drenched shore.

ABBA America will be delighted to see an attractive cast make an adored musical a movie and continue the "Mamma Mia" madness born when the first show that opened in 1999. The party doesn't stop until the last credit, so don't leave until the last note or you'll miss the summer's best number.

"Mamma Mia!" (108 minutes) is rated PG-13 for some sex-related comments. Now playing everywhere.

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