First Reformed

June 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Philip Ettinger
Directed by: Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo”)
Written by: Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo”)

It’s never ideal when a film has an agenda and then proceeds to beat viewers over the head with it. Recent message-heavy movies include the highly overrated, 2004 Oscar-winning drama “Crash” and its ham-fisted handling of race relations, the 2011 satire “God Bless America” and its commentary on pop culture consumption, and the 2012 animated ecological cautionary tale Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.” Get too self-righteous, and don’t be surprised when moviegoers tune out.

So, it’s quite unexpected when a film as preachy as “First Reformed” comes along and finds a way to be an exception to the rule. It’s a haunting, strange and lyrical narrative on one man’s spiritual and political resurrection from the darkest corners of his consciousness. “First Reformed” brims with insights on anger, guilt, faith and personal autonomy.

Written and directed by Paul Schrader (“American Gigolo”), “First Reformed” is a return to form for the 71-year-old filmmaker after wading in the cinematic shallow end with his last few forgettable projects. Revisiting some of the more philosophical, character-driven elements of his early screenplay work, including “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Schrader taps into another tormented soul. Toller (Ethan Hawke in a career-best performance) is the reverend of “First Reformed,” a small church in the fictional town of Snowbridge, New York.

Like his church, Toller is inconspicuous — delivering weekly sermons to his handful of parishioners and then retreating to his life of solitude where he spends his time drinking heavily and writing in a journal that he plans to destroy after a year. He is also preparing for the 250th anniversary of his church with help from a local megachurch that supports his ministry. Toller is called upon for spiritual guidance by Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a pregnant young woman whose militant husband (Philip Ettinger) can’t stomach the idea of bringing a child into a world where climate change and disease are making the planet uninhabitable for future generations.

Without giving too much of the plot away, Toller finds himself taking on a de facto role as an activist while coming to terms with his tragic past and confronting the reality that men of faith, no matter how close to God they consider themselves to be, do not possess all the answers. Despite its decision to lay it on thick (Toller’s computer screensaver features a malnourished polar bear, for Christ’s sake), “First Reformed” is built to carry the burden of Schrader’s ambitious and inspired script, which includes a visceral final scene that will linger for weeks.

Ted 2

June 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth McFarlane, Amanda Seyfried
Directed by: Seth McFarlane (“Ted”)
Written by: Seth McFarlane (“Ted”) Alec Sulkin (“Ted”) & Wellesly Wild (“Ted”)

Comedy sequels are hard to get right. The modern movie-going experience demands that subsequent films in a series top whatever came before it with laughs and worry about the story later, which in most cases leads to a weird phenomenon of things being reset plot-wise. Adversity is reintroduced, non-essential characters are deleted to maximize the funny, and a familiar adversary improbably shows up again to repeat the same story beats from the first film. “Ted 2” is not immune from this ailment, but it may just be funny and offensive enough to power through the familiarity.

The film opens with brought-to-life stuffed bear Ted (voice of Seth McFarlane) marrying Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) while his best pal John (Mark Wahlberg) mopes around after his divorce. Fast forward a year to Ted and Tami-Lynn are having relationship problems, which they hope to cure by having a baby. With Ted’s lack of a penis and Tami-Lynn’s infertility standing in the way, they decide to adopt. When filing the paperwork, though, it is discovered that the state of Massachusetts doesn’t recognize Ted as a person, and in order to become a father, he’ll need to prove just that in a court of law. Enter rookie lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), a pot-smoking pop culture novice who John starts to fall for as they fight to earn Ted’s human rights.

This may be the most socially progressive movie ever made that also happens to feature a Hollywood megastar getting covered in numerous black men’s diseased semen during a pratfall in what seems to be just an elaborate setup for a throwaway Kardashian joke. “Ted 2” mostly shines when sticking to the humor, which is just as gross and offensive and referential as you would expect from a Seth McFarlane project. The film suffers, though, when trudging through the plot in fits and starts. The plight of Ted’s journey to become a legally-recognized person is lumpy and over-long and intercut with a subplot about mega toy company Hasbro (playing itself in what must be the first case of meta product placement, featuring chiefly the idea of toys) angling to re-acquire the rights to Ted (who I guess they manufactured in the first place?) and reverse-engineering his magical life force in an effort to make millions off of living Ted toys–never mind that Ted is a foul-mouthed asshole that would horrify parents and children alike. That trait is what makes the movie often hilarious, but the story of Ted is starting to become thread-bear.

While We’re Young

April 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver
Directed by: Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha”)
Written by: Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha”)

In American culture, there is perhaps no easier target than the modern day hipster. With their bowler hats, neatly groomed mustaches and vintage bikes, it’s easy to poke fun at their transparent sense of irony and mock them in pop culture. Apparently, writer and director Noah Baumbach figured this was enough to base an entire film off of. Unfortunately for him, every single bit of attempted comedy and satire feels way too obvious in “While We’re Young.”

As Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) meander through their dull, but satisfactory lives, they have a chance meeting with Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a young hipster couple. Josh and Cornelia become fascinated with their easy-going lifestyle and rejuvenated when they are able to spend time with them. But eventually, when Josh and Jamie team up for a mutual work project, things begin to appear different than they initially seemed.

Baumbach is no stranger to caustic, unlikeable characters. With all that kept in mind, nearly every single person in “While We’re Young” is completely annoying. Whether it’s in their complaints about their lives or the behavior they exhibit, there’s a level of obnoxiousness that courses through the veins of every element of “While We’re Young.” From the characterization, to the performances, to the script and beyond, there’s something about the film and the way it runs things into the ground that makes you want to say “We get it. You’re eccentric.”

As previously alluded to, hipster jokes are among the most simple to tell. The screenplay puts a reliance on mining the ironic and inherent weirdness of the culture, juxtaposing it with a generation that need their phones for information or communication every second. It’s a message that lacks any sort of nuance and most importantly, humor, as every joke falls staggeringly flat. Are we supposed to laugh simply because Stiller, a nearly 50-year-old man, has decided to copy his decades younger friend and wear a hat everywhere?

Beyond dialogue issues, there is also a problem with the narrative elements of the script. The turn here is unbelievably obvious, and one that any audience member who has been paying attention will be able to figure out in a heartbeat. There are also scenes that feel completely superfluous, such as a scene where the couples head to a weird ritual where they drink some sort of concoction that makes them vomit and hallucinate. It’s funny cause it’s “weird,” right?

It’s clear that Baumbach was trying to say something about the mid-life crisis. The problem is, there is absolutely no subtlety to anything seen in “While We’re Young.” From laughing at the expense of hipsters, to flipping the roles of the technology-reliant and the old fashioned, nearly every second, plotline or joke is way too on the nose to register as funny, biting, or profound.


August 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone
Directed by: Rob Epstein (“Howl”) and Jeffrey Friedman (“Howl”)
Written by: Andy Bellin (“Trust”)

“Lovelace,” the biopic featuring actress Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miserables”) as 1970s porn icon Linda Lovelace, could be a very minor companion piece to Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 porn epic “Boogie Nights.” While the film doesn’t come close to the depth or emotional resonance of Anderson’s masterpiece, Lovelace herself would have been an interesting secondary character to follow in “Nights” like audiences did with Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope or Heather Graham’s Rollergirl. Instead, “Lovelace” is a solo show that has grand aspirations but isn’t playing in the same league as the big boys. Still, the screenplay by Andy Bellin (“Trust”) is distinctively framed and some inspired casting decisions were made giving “Lovelace” just enough stamina to see it through.

While Seyfried is playing the title role, actor Peter Sarsgaard really has control of the film just like his character Chuck Traynor does with Linda’s life and career. Once Linda meets Chuck, who is just about as sleazy a character as James Woods’ Lester Diamond in “Casino,” there’s no turning back for the innocent Catholic schoolgirl from the Bronx. When Chuck tells Linda they need more money, it’s never a question about how they’re going to get it. Chuck’s plan is definitive when he begins pimping out Linda and then introduces her to the world of pornography.

From here, the fantasy of a perfect marriage and home life is destroyed as Linda finds herself trapped in an industry that praises her for nothing more than a nonexistent gag reflex. As she continues to perform and live with her physically abusive husband, we watch as Linda transforms from a human being into a belittled brand name simply to line Chuck’s pockets. Her claim to fame is the infamous 1972 adult film “Deep Throat,” which is considered one of the most successful ever made.

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who teamed up in 2010 for the inadequate Allen Ginsberg biopic “Howl” starring James Franco, the duo do a better job making us believe Seyfried is more than a big-name star playing pretend during an era she wasn’t even alive for. For the most part, Seyfried loses herself in the role as does Sarsgaard and other well cast actors like Chris Noth (“Sex and the City”), Bobby Cannavale (“Win Win”) and Hank Azaria (“Along Came Polly”). As Linda’s overbearing and seemingly uncaring mother, Sharon Stone (“Casino”) gets her biggest opportunity to shine since her role in 2006’s “Bobby” and does a commendable job. As Linda’s father, Robert Patrick (“Gangster Squad”) is given the most emotional scene in the film when he asks his daughter what he did wrong that pushed her into an immoral lifestyle.

Linda might have transcended the porn industry in the 70s, but “Lovelace” doesn’t do the same for biopics in general. Her life was a complex one, but Epstein and Friedman only skim the surface. With Linda Lovelace, you have to go a lot deeper than that.


May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Ashley, Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz
Directed by: Chris Wedge (“Robots”)
Written by: James V. Hart (“August Rush”), Tom J. Astle (“Get Smart”), Matt Ember (“Failure to Launch”), William Joyce (debut) and Daniel Shere (debut)

While the title is a drastic overstatement, “Epic” is sure to send the kiddos off with a smile and some good laughs. With that said, it’s important to warn those who are expecting a magical world filled with dynamic characters and a heartwarming storyline to wipe your expectations clean. “Epic” doesn’t reach those heights.

In “Epic,” teenager Mary Katherine, aka M.K., (Amanda Seyfried), who has recently lost her mother, must deal with the transition of moving in with her kooky and absent-minded father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis). Hard at work, the professor is trying to prove the existence of a secret world which inhabits tiny warriors who protect the forest, a theory M.K. isn’t buying. The only bright side to living in her new creaky home is spending time with her rambunctious, beat-up Pug, Ozzie. After accidentally letting Ozzie loose, M.K. ends up chasing him into the forest where she is magically shrunken into the secret world her father told her about – a world of fairylike creatures and talking animals.

Caught in the middle of a raging war between good (the Leafmen) and evil (the Boggans), M.K. finds her tiny self destined to protect the “chosen pod,” which now holds the good spirit of the forest, passed on by the slain Forest Queen, Tara (Beyonce). In order to defeat Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), leader of the Boggans, who is plotting to take over the forest, M.K. enlists the help of Ronin (Colin Farrell), the noble and trusty Commander of the Leafmen; Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a rebellious hero; and a couple of comic-relief sidekicks, Mub the Slug (Anziz Ansari) and Grub the Snail (Chris O’Dowd).

With so many opportunities to live up to its name, “Epic” never fulfills its destiny. Focusing a little more on the divided relationship between M.K. and her father would’ve been the easiest fix, but the film never takes full advantage when it has the chance. It barely grazes the surface of the father-daughter narrative and leaves the audience with unanswered questions.

Although unsuccessful at capturing the emotions of the entire story thanks to mediocre voice acting and a static storyline, “Epic” makes up in aesthetics with its whimsical animation and intricate battle choreography. But what truly slides in and saves the day, literally, are Mub the Slug and Grub the Snail. With their slapstick humor and memorable jokes, “Epic” is more enjoyable than it really should be.

Red Riding Hood

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”)
Written by: David Johnson (“Orphan”)

No matter what version you’ve heard, when it comes to traditional folklore and fairytales, there isn’t one that comes with more thematic baggage than “Little Red Riding Hood.” Whether as a parable on a young girl’s sexuality or simply a cautionary tale for kids about the dangers of wandering off the beaten path, most written adaptations over the last 300 years tend to follow the same narrative pattern before offering some type of intrinsic morale.

In “Red Riding Hood,” director Catherine Hardwicke (“Twilight”) communicates none of the above, nor does she pretend to have the least bit of interest in capturing any of the enchantment, eeriness or menacing quality of the original fable. Instead, Hardwicke is out to tap into the 13-18-year-old tween demographic who funds these gothic soap operas with their babysitting money. “The Twilight Saga” might shamelessly placate the horror/fantasy world, but at least Stephenie Meyer’s vamps and wolfboys brood vehemently. In the passionless “Red Riding Hood,” you’re lucky to get a blank stare and whimper.

Set in the medieval, snow-covered village of Daggerhorn (fortunately not the most optimal weather conditions to show off werewolf abs), a bloodthirsty beast has killed a human after 20 years of feasting only on the livestock appetizers he is served. Amanda Seyfried (“Letters to Juliet”) plays Valerie, a pretty little thing caught in a love triangle with a poor woodsman (Shiloh Fernandez) and a well-to-do blacksmith (Max Irons). Paranoia sweeps across the village when werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) rides in and deems everyone a suspect, including creepy, old grandma (Julie Christie).

Unintentionally hilarious (the “what big eyes you have” scene begs for ridicule especially), “Red Riding Hood” piles on the dreadful dialogue and unconvincing romance like salad-bar fixings. The only way it could have possibly been hokier is if the climax actually featured a computer-generated wolf dressed in granny’s nightie knitting a doily.

Letters to Juliet

May 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave
Directed by: Gary Winick (“13 Going on 30”)
Written by: Jose Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) and Tim Sullivan (“Jack & Sarah”)
Would someone please set a romantic film in the City of Detroit? While the areas of urban decay might not send hearts fluttering as much as, say, the medieval architecture in Verona, Italy, at least it’s different. Instead, “Letters to Juliet” follows the trend set by predecessors from “Roman Holiday” to “Under the Tuscan Sun” and does it rather blandly.
While it may not be as feebleminded as the romantic comedy “When in Rome” from earlier this year, “Juliet” cheats by yanking out as many obvious plot devices from the narrative as it possibly can before relying on its picturesque setting as a crutch. There are only so many chateaus and vinyards one can handle before it feels like you’re watching an over-produced travelogue.
In “Juliet,” Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia!”) stars as Sophie, a fact checker for the New Yorker who aspires to be a journalist. During her “pre-honeymoon” honeymoon to Verona with her emotionally-detached chef fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), Sophie stumbles upon a 50-year-old love letter hidden inside the walls of a courtyard where heartbroken women from all over the world come to write to William Shakespeare’s Juliet of Verona in a symbolic demonstration of hopeless romanticism.
When she finds out a group of women known as the “Secretaries of Juliet” actually answer all the letters left in the courtyard, Sophie decides she will reply to the letter Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) wrote decades ago. The correspondence ultimately connects Sophie with Claire and her disapproving grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) who set off on an adventure across Italy to find Claire’s long lost love Lorenzo Bartolini (Redgrave’s real-life husband Franco Nero, who could be a stand-in for the Dos XX Most Interesting Man in the World).

Despite despising each other from the start, it’s evident Sophie and Charlie will begin to fall for each other although screenwriters Jose Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) and Tim Sullivan (“Jack and Sarah”) don’t want to take the innocence out of the relationship by having Sophie jump into bed with Charlie while ignorant Victor is off gallivanting at wine tastings and auctions. There no real chemistry between the two anyway.

The real human emotion comes from Sophie’s connection with Claire. Redgrave carries her own as a woman who has never forgotten her first love. Seyfried follows as closely as possible without looking too lost. Egan is dead weight without an ounce of likeability even when he transforms from snobby English jerk to perfect English gentleman.

Aside from the inconsistency in acting, what director Gary Winick (“Bride Wars,” “13 Going on 30”) fails to do is inject any romance into the subplots of the story, which weigh down Claire’s quest for happiness. It might seem easy enough to do especially when you have Shakespeare to work with, but Winick wastes the literary passion by pandering to the women in the theater who have a tissue box in their lap.


March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Atom Egoyan (“Adoration”)
Written by: Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel”)

It’s evident from the start how much director Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter,” “Exotica”) wants to keep the title character in “Chloe” as enigmatic as possible. It’s surprising, however, when he doesn’t pull back the curtain in the slightest to give us a glimpse of a real character. By the end, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) – no matter how intriguing she is at first – never develops into more than a mere set piece in a cumbersome story.

Lacking drama, passion, and genuine seductive moments, “Chole” feels like a bargain basement romance novel with little spirit and intention. The story follows New York gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) who suspects her college-professor husband David (Liam Neeson) is cheating on her with one of his students.

While there is some evidence of his infidelity, Catherine wants to be certain. She decides to do what any other woman would (yeah right) and hires Chloe (Seyfried), a high-class prostitute, to assist her with a social experiment on her husband. Catherine asks Chloe to present herself to David like any two strangers would meet on any given day, flirt a bit, and see if he takes the bait. As these rendezvous become more consistent, Catherine wants detailed reports of their meetings. Chloe obliges and reveals every steamy scenario that plays out between her and David.

But as the bizarre love triangle continues, director Egoyan wrestles with the exact tone he wants for the second half of the film. When Chloe begins to show interest in Catherine and then in Catherine and David’s disrespectful teenage son Michael (Max Thieriot), the air of sexual tension is slowly let out of the narrative as Chloe extends her screen time by adding needless mischief to the already far-fetched premise. Once “Chloe” hits the “Fatal Attraction” plateau it’s a lost cause.

“Chloe” would have worked much better as an intelligent character study, but instead Egoyan shifts back and forth from tasteful to tawdry without much explanation. While Moore, Seyfried, and Neeson do as much as they can with their characters, the script expands in too many directions for Egoyan to make sense of anything with a deeper meaning than just the sex itself.

Dear John

February 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules”)
Written by: Jamie Linden (“We Are Marshall”)

There’s only so much a filmmaker can do to avoid over-romanticizing the film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. While a director like Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules”) has proven in the past that he can create great chemistry between actors (Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron in “Cider,” Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche in “Chocolat”) , it’s not always about the lovey-doviness.

If that was the case, “Dear John” wouldn’t fare so badly. There are, however, intangibles that make a difference in whether or not a story succeeds. In “Dear John,” Hallstrom and screenwriter Jamie Linden (“We Are Marshall”) almost manage to get past most of the pitfalls of a sentimental romance, but the third act is so incoherent when compared to the first hour of the film, it’s hard to fully recommend it.

The film follows the lovefest between special forces soldier John Tyree (Channing Tatum) and innocent college girl Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) who meet at author Sparks’ favorite locale – the beach (see “Message in a Bottle,” “Nights in Rodanthe”) – during a two-week-long spring break.

The courtship begins easy enough, but, of course, there’s only two weeks to get these young lovebirds to the point where they can’t live without each other. Things begin to progress rather quickly like most cinematic romances. John is a man with a past, although not much is explained about what made him so troublesome before he shaped up in the Army. He lets Savannah deep into his life and even introduces her to his coin-collecting-reclusive father (Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins) who Savannah believes is showing signs of autism.

While John and Savannah’s relationship flies by fast, Hallstrom and Linden are able to make the love story believable and sweet enough without drowning it in too much sap. The father-son story between Tatum and Jenkins offers an affectionate element rarely seen in these types of films. It’s a heartwarming part of the narrative mostly because of Jenkins’ effortless  performance, which is, unfortunately, thinly-written.

Where “Dear John” falters most is when John and Savannah are sent on their separate ways. John must return to military duty while Savannah goes back to college. Before they say their goodbyes, the two make promises to each other including keeping in contact through letters. The long-distance relationship is less interesting as letter pass back and forth and the narration becomes more and more like something you would find in the greeting card section marked “Missing You.”

When John proclaims to Savannah that “It’ll all be over soon and I’ll be back for good,” he doesn’t anticipate something like 9/11 happening. The tragedyaffects their plans to be together when John decides to reenlist with the rest of his platoon. From there, “Dear John” just delays the inevitable as the story becomes more and more melodramatic with each mail call. Hallstrom and Linden play the sympathy card for the final half-hour and unfortunately turn “Dear John” into an overemotional and manipulative mess.

Jennifer’s Body

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons
Directed by: Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”)
Written by: Diablo Cody (“Juno”)

Actress Megan Fox may be drop dead gorgeous, but there’s nothing pretty about “Jennifer’s Body.” The film is screenwriter Diablo Cody’s first script since winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for 2007’s slightly overrated “Juno.” (I still highly recommend “Juno,” but some of its pretentious dialogue bothers the hell out of me…”Honest to blog.”) Anyway, in “Body,” Cody and director Karyn Kusama (“Aeon Flux”) spew out as much unoriginality as the demon-possessed Fox does prickly, black vomit. It’s going for campy, but there’s really nothing too hilarious or scary to make it memorable. When a lesbian kiss between Fox and Amanda Seyfried is the only thing luring boys to the movie, you know you have yourself a guilty pleasure that’ll only be worth a few seconds on YouTube once the buzz dies down.

Mamma Mia!

July 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd (debut)
Written by: Catherine Johnson (“Sin Bin”)

The reason musicals like “Moulin Rouge!” and “Chicago” worked so well at the turn of the century was because directors like Baz Luhrmann and Rob Marshall had an eye for something uncommon. If that wasn’t the case, the return of the genre might have led us into Bollywood territory where the entertainment value drops as each new film mirrors the last.

In “Mamma Mia!” director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Catherine Johnson go for a more conventional adaptation of the popular Broadway hit. In its own inconsequential way, the film version is the same spectacle as it is on stage, but with more to survive visually on the big screen.

When Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) uncovers her mother’s old diary, she is ecstatic to find out the book could hold the answer to a question she has been wondering her entire life: Who is my father?

The only problem is, her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), was somewhat promiscuous during her formative years and slept with three men around the same time. This means, of course, that any one of them could be Sophie’s dad.

Set on inviting her father to her wedding so he can give her away, Sophie decides the most reasonable thing to do would be to invite all three men to the ceremony and sort it out when they arrive.

Although Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), Sam (Pierce Brosnan), and Harry (Colin Firth) have no idea the real reason they have been invited to the Greek island paradise, all three show up much to the chagrin of Donna, who hasn’t seen her ex-lovers in years.

Once you get past the giddiness of it all, “Mamma Mia!” has some high points during the musical interludes like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” which is so darn catchy you’ll want to hear it again when it’s over. Still, it takes a while to warm up to the characters as they sing and flutter about, especially Pierce Brosnan who seems awkward during most of his vocal work. Then there are also a few misplaced songs and underwritten storylines. Why Winters’ tune is important enough to include in the film is beyond comprehension.

Most of the film’s flaws come from the direction of Lloyd, who seems to have everyone and everything moving nonstop without anywhere to go. If that’s what equals a high-energy musical, someone pump Seyfried and friends up with some sedatives and leave the musicals to directors whose only point of reference isn’t “Grease.”