Why, lord? Why? Why, lord? Why? Meryl Streep never ceases to amaze, and what she does in Mamma Mia!, a screen adaptation of the hit musical featuring the mighty works of ABBA, is so good that I almost forgave the movie's shortcomings. Almost.
It breaks my heart to report that I didn't enjoy this movie, because I was very excited about it. Let it be said that, while I never saw the play on which this movie is based, I am a huge ABBA fan. Alas, I did little toe-tapping and a fair amount of grimacing at what director Phyllida Lloyd hath wrought. The fun music of ABBA is shoehorned into a stupid story that doesn't deserve these grand melodies.
The story concerns Sophie (the adorable Amanda Seyfried), who is getting close to her wedding day and doesn't know who her father is. She stumbles upon the diary of her hard-working mom, Donna (Streep), and discovers that there are three men who did the deed with mommy who could be her pops. She secretly sends them wedding invitations, making them believe it's Donna who is inviting them.
The three show up for the Greek island ceremonies. They are Sam (Pierce Brosnan), a divorced architect; Harry (Colin Firth), a former rocker type; and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard). One of the men still harbors big feelings for her.
The film does have moments that soar. Streep does a nice job with the title track and truly mesmerizes with her take on "The Winner Takes It All." In fact, the movie pretty much soars every time the lady opens her mouth to sing, especially in some numbers with Christine Baranski and Julie Walters (who play her best friends and former bandmates). They have fun with "Dancing Queen" and "Super Trouper," providing the film with some nice, focused moments of happy energy. I also liked the Baranski character's rendition of "Does Your Mother Know?"
But for every good number, there is one that's equally bad, and the film offers few moments when the music really mattered amongst the chaos. There are only a few moments of interesting choreography (mostly with Streep at the center), while most of the action comes off as frantic and sloppy.
And, oh my, does Pierce Brosnan struggle with the singing bits. He's so bad that he's almost endearing in a "feeling sorry for him" kind of way. The man just butchers his part of "S.O.S." You'll find yourself laughing for all the wrong reasons.
If you were to extract the Streep performances from the film, you'd have a decent highlight reel. I also enjoyed Seyfried, who has a voice and a pleasant screen presence. Baranski and Walters bring some fun, but a few of their moments are a little jarring. When they busted into the film's first version of "Dancing Queen," I was scared.
It's always a sad state of affairs when the credit roll contains the best moment in a film. In this case, Streep, Baranski and Walters show up for two more rousing numbers, "Dancing Queen (Reprise)" and "Waterloo," in full ABBA regalia. This would've been a better movie had the trio just done a 90-minute ABBA-tribute concert. That would've gotten rid of all the hapless running about and Brosnan's crooning.
Seriously, Pierce: No more movie musicals!
Mamma Mia! ★★✩✩✩
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan. Rating: PG-13