If you too are of the school of thought that Meryl Streep plus 'Mamma Mia!' equals paradox, be prepared for a shock.
I'm not a huge musical fan - just can't understand why people have to sing the mundane thing they'd usually say, prolonging it with verse. That plus the fact that I was a little afraid Streep was doing a De Niro and selling out - I was nervous about seeing her 'Mamma Mia!'. Just shy of two hours later and I felt ashamed at my lack of trust in the legend, arguably the greatest actress of her generation.
Based on Julie Craymer's original stage production, which opened in London in 1999, 'Mamma Mia!' has played in 170 cities in eight languages and has so far been seen by more than 30m people.
The story follows a single mother, Donna (Streep), her daughter Sophie (Seyfried) and three possible dads (Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgård) who Sophie secretly invites to her upcoming wedding.
The original director Phyllida Lloyd returned to the project to make her film directorial debut and writer Catherine Johnson adapted her original script for the screenplay. The result is very similar in style to the stage production, the key exception being the removal of the stage and the addition of two real-life Greek islands, Skopelos and Skiathos.
The film looks great; production qualities are high, it's colourful, fresh and inviting. There's plenty of humour, thanks mainly to the camaraderie between female leads Streep, Walters and Baranski.
As for the music, it's all, or almost all, there as per the stage production. A couple of tunes are left out as they didn't transfer from stage to screen but all the heavy hitters make the cut including 'I Have a Dream', 'Money, Money, Money', 'The Winner Takes It All', 'Dancing Queen' and of course the obligatory 'Mamma Mia'.
The cast pay a worthy tribute to ABBA's hits, with a couple of exceptions, the most obvious being our own Brosnan, whose questionable vocal talent is on a par with his 'Oirish' accent (if in doubt revisit 'Evelyn'). Singing aside, he plays the middle-aged- yet-romantic lead well. Talking romantic leads, it's great to see Colin Firth not playing to type, instead he gets into the musical spirit and camps it up for the role.
'Means Girls' mean girl Seyfried proves that she's a lot more than a pretty face and teen queen in the role of the bride-to-be. Her beau, 'The Escapist's Dominic Cooper, goes a long way to fulfilling the obligatory teen pin-up requirements.
Streep has said that she took on the role after seeing the Broadway production shortly after 9/11. The uplifting effect the musical had on the audience and her kids inspired her to take on the role of Donna. When approached she apparently responded: “Are you kidding? I AM Mamma Mia!” And she is.
It looks like the cast had great fun making it and you'll have great fun watching it. Only the ending, lack of chemistry between the leads and a tablespoon too much cheese take away from the film.
The 'High School Musical' tweenies are going to love it. While it may not inspire 'Grease-like' mania, be prepared for yet another ABBA comeback as a new generation discover the Swedish legends for the first time. Good timing, then, for next year's opening of Stockholm's Abba museum.
Streep plus ABBA hits will get people through the door and it’s a winning combination that'll keep people coming back.
'Mamma Mia!' is good, clean, camp family fun.
PS: By the way, ABBA's two B's, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, both make a cameo appearance in the movie.
PPS: Don't leave during the credits or you'll miss the 1970s clad crew's encore. A 'Waterloo' classic.