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Mamma Mia! The Movie

Mamma Mia: The Movie

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TAKEN at face value, Mamma Mia: The Movie is a fun experience that will probably cover audiences in its feel-good glow. But beyond the cheap thrills and clever central casting there are difficulties that cannot be overlooked.

The singing by several of the principal cast members is ropey at best, while the plot is as lightweight as they come. There’s no real substance and the whole film is basically a thinly-veiled device upon which to hang a batch of memorable songs – much like the play that inspired it.

The story picks up as 18-year-old Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) decides to find out who her father really is on the day before her wedding in Greece. Without the knowledge of her mother Donna (Meryl Streep), she invites the three contenders to come and be part of the ceremony, confident she’ll be able to recognise dad at first glance.

But the task is not as easy as she predicted and it proves tough to choose between Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), Bill Austin (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry Bright (Colin Firth).

Given the global success of the stage production, Phyllida Lloyd’s big screen makeover should have little difficulty converting this celebration of all things Abba into box office gold. But it really shouldn’t have things quite so easily.

If anything, the quality of the film is best summed up by Pierce Brosnan’s performance – awful but entertainingly so. The former 007 looks visibly terrified when tackling the songs and really cannot sing but the bravery of his attempts and the comical nature of his delivery is enough to keep him in audiences’ good graces.

Colin Firth, too, looks awkward during some of the big moments, while many of the songs are clearly lip-synched or delivered via the safety net of a lot of backing singers (many of whom comprise original cast members) – all of which makes you appreciate just how good Johnny Depp was in this year’s Sweeney Todd. Mamma Mia also pales by comparison to the far superior Hairspray movie adaptation.

Thank goodness, then, for Meryl Streep who tackles her Donna with relish and never seems phased by anything the director asks of her, while the sunny Greek locations provide a genuinely stunning backdrop. The sense of camp fun is such, too, that many of the really big moments have an infectious nature about them, no matter how knowingly cheesy they become.

So, while Mamma Mia is undoubtedly a lazy, shallow experience, it begrudgingly wears down your resistance to it. Fans of the original show won’t be disappointed.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 98mins
UK DVD Release: November 24, 2008