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.”