A review of “Mamma Mia!” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for sexual innuendo and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

 

 

Director Phyllida Lloyd ramps up the kitsch in a delightfully irresistible silver screen version of the ABBA-ized stage musical of the same name.

Amanda Seyfried (consummately conflicted polygamist’s daughter of TV’s “Big Love”) is sweetness and light as a youthful, glowing Sophie, a Greek island inn-keeper’s daughter on the eve of her fantasy wedding day.

Naturally there’s a hitch; Sophie won’t feel whole until she’s discovered the true identity of her real dad. Her amateur sleuthing uncovers mom’s diary of yore and three potential candidates to walk her down the aisle.

To cover her bases Sophie secretly invites the entire trio of ex-suitors to her island nuptials – New York banker Sam (Pierce Brosnan), English stuffed-shirt Harry (Colin Firth) and erstwhile adventurer Bill (Stellan Skarsgård).

Stress the A in Awkward as beleaguered mom Donna (Meryl Streep) catches wind of the plan and faces her buried past head on.

All the shenanigans are part a sketchy tableau supporting the real star: the music. A baker’s dozen-plus of toe-tapping ABBA tunes that propel the “narrative” forward with something akin to manic glee.

Manic as in laughably lowbrow; manic as in so bad it’s good. Spray-on tans and cougars on parade? Aargh!. Campy theatrics, herky-jerky camerawork and Busby Berkeley choreography set on a ridiculously breathtaking island paradise. Whew.

The cast (and maybe some crew) trip the light fantastic on land and on sea warbling the iconic ABBA songbook, pulling it off with a sunny sincerity.

Streep not only carries a tune she can actually sing, her heartrending “Winner Takes it All” a potent and moving ballad. Co-stars Julie Walters and Christine Baranski gamely pick up the tempo and they’re not half-bad.

The guys get snaps for good sportsmanship. Brosnan in particular gives it a run for the money – clinging to his pitch with every fiber of his being. Firth and Skarsgård have less to do but look good doing it.

Seyfried positively dazzles (that smile!) and her easy chemistry with real-life earth mom Streep cannot be denied.

Wanna get away from it all? “Mamma Mia!” is the ultimate summer escape.