Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mama Mia

It is OK to enjoy Mama Mia (2008).

Mindless and full of the music of ABBA, a 1980s musical sensation that never quite made sense to me, Mama Mia takes the music of this Scandinavian group that sang but could not speak English and transplants it to the isles of Greece, under the auspices of an Italian title. The result comes close to being Americanized Bollywood, and I don't mean that as criticism. Mama Mia is full of music, energy, color, song, and dance. The scenery is beautiful, and it is fun to watch Meryl Streep shamelessly dance and sing and emote.

I did not see the Broadway musical that is the film's source, but the film works well enough. Donna (Meryl Streep) plays the beleaguered American proprietor of a hotel on a remote Greek isle. Twenty years before the time of the film, she had three summer affairs, one of them with a man whom she loved, two with men she turned to when the first lover abandoned her. The result was a daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Donna doesn't know which of the men was Sophie's father. In the film's present time, Sophie is about to be married. She has always wondered who her father was, and she learns about the three affairs while reading her mother's diary. She invites each of the three men to her wedding, thinking she will instantly know her father when she sees him. Of course, things aren't that simple. All three men come to the island, Donna is thrown into crisis and consternation when she sees them, and Sophie is confused when she can't recognize her father and when her mother is upset at the arrival of three former flames.

Such is the film's thin plot. But its thinness doesn't matter. It's a sufficient skeleton to hang the songs on. My favorite was "Dancing Queen," a wonderful and colorful number in which all the women on the island participate, reliving their past memories of lost romanticism and youth. The title song sequence "Mama Mia" is also good, as were "Does Your Mother Know" (sung by Christine Baranski) and "Take a Chance on Me" (sung by Julie Waters) and "SOS" (song by Pierce Brosnan).

The film suggests that Donna and her three lovers were children of the 60s, a decade that in fact occurred forty years earlier than the time of the film. But that discrepancy is not worth fretting over.

As Sam, the man Donna loved, Pierce Brosnan sings a number of songs. Am I mistaken about the pained look on his face? Anyway, everyone seems to be having fun.

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