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PCR #436 (Vol. 9, No. 31) This edition is for the week of July 28--August 3, 2008.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Mamma Mia"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan
Directed by: Phyllidia Lloyd
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 48 mins

On a beautiful Greek island, 20 year old Sophie (Seyfried) is planning her wedding. Raised by her single mother, Donna (Streep), Sophie has never met her father. A chance discovery of her mother’s old diaries suggests that there are three possibilities as to who could be her dad. Hoping to have him give her away at the wedding, Sophie invites all three men (Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard) to her wedding. Mamma Mia!

Unless you were on the planet Mars in the mid 1970s you are familiar with the band ABBA. Their bouncy songs (“Waterloo,” “Mamma Mia,” “Super Trooper”) were infectious, causing even the most hardened rock and roll fan to tap their toes and sing along. In 1999 the stage musical “Mamma Mia,” containing many ABBA songs, opened in England. It hit Broadway in 2001 and has run continuously at the Winter Garden Theater (where ‘CATS’ played, seemingly, now and forever). The show, which when it first premiered had trouble finding financial backers, has since gone on to gross over $2 billion. Yes, that’s BILLION, with a B. Now the show has been transferred to the big screen with an unlikely cast that surprisingly delivers on all notes.

To use the ABBA songbook here, the filmmakers definitely TOOK A CHANCE on casting real actors in the main roles. Seyfried, whose is probably best known for her work on HBO’s “Big Love,” is excellent here as Sophie. Hers is a film musical debut to rival that of Emmy Rossum in “Phantom of the Opera” or Nikki Blonski in “Hairspray.” Streep, who campaigned hard for the lead in “Evita,” has a pleasant voice, though she does better with songs that require some emotion. Her rendition of “The Winner Takes It All” is delivered as a dramatic monologue, which is most appropriate for the story. As Donna's two best friends, and one time backup singers (Donna and the Dynamos), Julie Walters and Christine Baranski bring a light comedic touch to their characters. Baranski has sung on Broadway (in fact she’s currently appearing there now) and has two Tony awards on her mantle so it’s no surprise that she has the best voice among the Dynamos. Her “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Lover After Midnight), is one of the highlights of the film. On the men’s side, Firth acquits himself well vocally. Brosnan isn’t the greatest singer in the world, but it’s a treat to hear his Irish brogue during “S.O.S.”

Visually, the film is stunning. In fact, it’s practically a two-hour commercial for Greek tourism and director Lloyd uses every bit of the island to lend a gorgeous backdrop to her story. The music is as great now as it was 30 years ago, a true testament to ABBA's continued popularity. Almost all of the band's hits are featured, though I was disappointed no one in the film had a friend named Fernando. Fans of the group will pick out Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (the two B’s in ABBA and the group’s songwriters) in small cameos. And, if ever it was worth the few extra minutes to sit through the end credits, this is surely the time.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give “Mamma Mia”

This week's movie review of "Mamma Mia" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2008, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.