Mamma Mia!

Meryl Streep can do anything: sing, dance, do splits, act her heart out. The (almost) saves this clumsy, overwrought film version of the Abba musical that's been running on stages from Broadway to Barcelona since 1999,rossing over $2 billion and luring more than 30 million ticketbuyers to hear Abba songs by Sweden's Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson shoehorned into a plot where they don't really fit. Who can argue with that kind of "money, money/Always sunny/In a rich man's world success?" I can, at least, here the movie is concerned, because the three formidable women responsible or the show — producer Judy Craymer, writer Catherine Johnson and director Phyllida Lloyd — let the magic slip through their fingers on the treacherous rip from stage to screen. The plot is still the same: Streep plays Donna, running a hotel on a Greek island (Skopelos and Skiathos, both looking gorgeous) while planning the wedding of her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried, cute) to Sky (Dominic Cooper, also cute). Sophie, the minx, doesn't tell Donna she has sent wedding invites to three men — Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) — one of whom she thinks is her father. That premise doesn't deserve scrutiny; neither does the singing of the guys — Brosnan bleats like a moose who just took a bullet. What does work, and wonderfully, is the friendship among Streep and her two BFFs — bestselling author Rosie (Julie Walters, love her!) and professional divorce Tanya (Christine Baranski). Back in the day, they rocked out as part of Donna and the Dynamos (cue "Dancing Queen"). When Streep, Walters and Baranski share the screen, Mamma Mia! comes alive and arns its exclamation point. The rest is forced gaiety pushed to the breaking point.

From The Archives Issue 289: April 19, 1979