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Mamma Mia! - The winner takes it all
Mamma Mia! - The winner takes it all
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Mamma Mia!
Opening July 18


I've always said, "No one can be in a bad mood while listening to an ABBA song." After seeing the movie musical Mamma Mia!, I stand behind it 100%. Much like the stage production with the same name (which opened in 2001 and is still running on Broadway), the movie version will make you want to dance in your seat - and people do! It's pure musical entertainment, stringing together a collection of ABBA songs (mostly found on the ABBA Gold Collection) in a very clever way that brings the simple plotline into form. It works with the magic that only a musical can produce, mixing reality and fantasy into a full-length feature film of fun.

Taking place on a small Greek island, the young Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is planning her upcoming nuptials to her fiancé Sky, played by Dominic Cooper. Unknown to her single mother Donna (Meryl Streep), Sophie has gone through her mother's diary and discovered she has three candidates for her father, and has proceeded to invite them all. To her surprise and chagrin, Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) have all agreed to attend without knowing Sophie's motives. They arrive thinking it was Donna that sent the invitation and they all jump at the chance of seeing her again.

Assisting Donna are her two best friends and former partners in a singing group, Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski). Such great classics are delivered as the singing trio performs "Chiquitita" and "Super Trouper." When the characters launched into the song "Dancing Queen," that seemed to be all the audience needed; they were literally dancing in their seats and (sometimes) singing along. It's rare that a movie musical can make an audience burst into applause after one of the songs, but when it happens several times, attention must be paid.

Meryl Streep (who does all of her own singing) is fantastic. In a role that could easily be swept away by camp, without the audience noticing or minding, she adds depth and sincerity. Christine Baranski's role as Tanya doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination for the audience to believe her as a drinking socialite woman surviving several marriages. Her comic timing seems to be on-target, though, and she comes across as a "cougar" type, playing with the younger men on the island. Julie Waters does a great job as the independent "lone wolf" sidekick Rosie, completely separating herself from her previous (and upcoming) role as Mrs. Weasley in the Harry Potter movies.

The men in the film are just as good as their female counterparts. Stellan Skarsgård (departing from Pirates of the Caribbean fame) plays an explorer type, not wanting to settle down with anyone but adventure. His rough-and-ready attitude gets a comic softening as he gets to know his potential daughter as well as his old flame, her mother. Colin Firth plays a staunch financial type that longs to become more spontaneous, and comes to the island to seek out the woman that first gave him that opportunity. It's Pierce Brosnan that is the main figurehead of the trio of former suitors. He returns to the Greek island (and woman) that he once loved in hopes of rekindling his relationship with both. He is the main love interest of Donna and the romantic sparks fly between them.

Backed up by a literal Greek chorus, the wedding party and the guests weave themselves in and out of comic trouble and humorous situations set against the beautiful scenery of a Greek island. True with musical theater tradition, they do it with great songs, fun dance numbers and (of course) a happy ending that the audience practically joins in with in the finale. It makes all those watching the film unite in wanting to break out their plastic, knee-high boots, iridescent fringe and skintight disco pants, but, thankfully, it's played out on the screen so that we don't have to.

With a rating of PG-13 (presumably for brief nudity, some language and "adult situations"), this movie is fun. You will be tapping your toes in your seats and humming the familiar tunes on the way out of the theater, being just one of the several people doing just that. As the title song clearly states: "Mamma mia! My, my. How can I resist ya?"

The truth is, I can't. And neither should you.

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