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MOVIE REVIEW

Mamma Mia! **

My mother’s name is Loretta.

I love her to death, but she is hopelessly addicted to movies that are upbeat, filled with sassy middle-aged female characters, and drenched in either sickly-sweet or emotionally-charged romance. If they sing a song or two, she’s in heaven. My sister and I call them “Loretta Movies.”

“Mamma Mia!” is the ultimate “Loretta Movie.”

As you probably know, “Mamma Mia!” is based on a Broadway musical of the same name. It was the first of the many “jukebox musicals” that now fill Broadway’s theaters. The VERY thin plot was constructed around the music and lyrics of 70’s supergroup ABBA.

And when I say thin plot, I’m talking tissue-thin. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried, from HBO’s “Big Love”) is getting married. She lives in Greece and helps her mother Donna (Meryl Streep), operate her dilapidated villa hotel. Sophie wants her father to give her away, but the problem is that he could be one of three different men (Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, or Colin Firth). She invites them all to the wedding and, as they say, complications ensue.

Folks, this movie is bad. The directing is non-existent. It looks badly and cheaply filmed. Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and scene-stealing Christine Baranski (as Streep’s best girlfriends) are photographed in the most un-flattering light imaginable. Everyone is hamming it up in the worst way and the choreography is not much better than what you’d see at a high school play. As for the singing…well…let’s just say you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Pierce Brosnan bray “SOS.” He actually brays like a donkey when he sings!

And yet…and yet…every once in a while, the true joy of the project shines through and you find yourself humming along or tapping your toes. Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try to resist, those ABBA guys wrote some seriously addictive pop songs and it’s easy to see why the stage show is such a hit.  It really makes you want to run out and listen to the originals rather than hear how some of them have been butchered by these actors, or how they’ve been shoe-horned into the plot. But it’s clear everyone involved is having fun, and in that spirit, the movie sometimes clicks.

Meryl Streep, it must be said, can always be counted on to turn a lump of coal into a shiny diamond. Unfortunately, for most of the film she works way too hard. Near the end she finally gets a one-two punch of songs and delivers a powerhouse performance of “The Winner Takes It All” that redeems everything she’s done up to that point.

There is also an actual Greek Chorus of sorts, which I found kind of clever. There’s nothing like watching some old, wrinkled up Greek grandmother dancing in an olive grove doing back-up on “Dancing Queen.”

Mom, you’re gonna love it!

MAMMA MIA! Dir: Phyllida Lloyd; Scr: Catherine Johnson; Stars: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried. Rated PG-13



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