Ignore the odd dodgy vocal and you’ll be taken in by this lush musical, writes
MAMMA MIA! Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski
gen release, 108 min THE OUTLINE of Mamma Mia! bears an uncanny resemblance to Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell (1968), an amusing comedy starring Gina Lollobrigida as an Italian who had wartime flings with three US servicemen, told each that he was the father of her daughter, and collected child maintenance from them for 20 years, until they returned to Italy for a reunion.
Mamma Mia! stars Meryl Streep as Donna, who runs a small hotel on a Greek island where her daughter Sophie (Amanda
Seyfried) is about to marry Sky (Dominic Cooper). Reading Donna’s diaries from 20 years earlier, Sophie decides that her father must be one of three lovers Donna had at the time.
She invites all three to her wedding, in the hope that spending time with them will provide vital clues to her parentage.
Sam (Pierce Brosnan) is a divorced New York architect. Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) is a Swedish adventurer who chronicles his travels in popular books. And Harry (Colin Firth) is an uptight London banker so stuffy that he asks if there’s a trouser press in the goat house the three men have to share.
For adult gender balance, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski play man-hungry Rosie and multiple divorcee Tanya, who were the backing singers in Donna’s old musical trio, Donna and the Dynamos. The indigenous inhabitants of the island are peripheral beyond serving as a Greek chorus in the many songand-dance numbers that are the movie’s raison d’etre.
The soundtrack is formed as a compilation of Abba’s greatest hits, with the lyrics woven together to advance the slender storyline. In the opening number, Sophie trills I Have a Dream as she sends wedding invites to her potential fathers. Tanya sings Does Your Mother Know? as she wards off a much younger man. Rosie delivers Take a Chance on Me when she makes advances on her object of desire.
It is Donna who gets to perform most of the songs, and Streep, a diva in dungarees and a straw hat, reaffirms the singing ability she demonstrated in Postcards from the Edge and A Prairie Home Companion. There is, apparently, no limit to Streep’s talent, and her effervescent performance is the beating heart of Mamma Mia!
As all good musicals ought to do, this one revels in the joy of performance. The most elaborate dance numbers – set to Dancing Queen, Voulez-Vous and Lay All Your Love on Me – are choreographed with terrific exuberance and an infectious sense of fun.
However, director Phyllida Lloyd, who has been with the show since it was first staged, is too eager to disguise its theatrical origins by subjecting the dancing to excessive MTV-paced editing. As the gifted Bob Fosse proved in