First let me soothe the jangled nerves of any purists in the house: Yes, Mamma Mia! stays faithful to its source material. By source material, I mean the hit theatrical show that strung together a bunch of ABBA chart-toppers and shoehorned a pittance of plot in between a giggling spectacle of song and dance. Yup, the film adaptation of the Broadway adaptation of a catalog of Swedish disco hits retains all that, and ups the ante with fodder for twitters, snickers, groans and guffaws. It's astonishingly silly stuff, this musical about the soon-to-be-married bastard child Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who invites to her Grecian-isle wedding the three men she knows her mother (Meryl Streep) schtupped during the summer of Sophie's conception. But it's not like anybody's trying to pass it off as anything other than silly -there's a goddamn exclamation point in the title.
Still, there's much to quibble with here, like the apparent directive for characters to dissolve into squeals at regular intervals, or director Phyllida Lloyd's apparent grudge match with shot continuity and proper night lighting (it's cool - she found lasting love with slo-mo instead). And there are indignities aplenty heaped atop the cast.
But to get back to that exclamation point. Once you accept everything it entails, there are fleeting pleasures to be had. Mostly known for TV work in Big Love and Veronica Mars, Seyfried is a lovely find. She has the most accomplished voice in the cast and imbues a zero character with vulnerability and charm. The vets are fun to watch, too, especially Julie Walters as Streep's sass-mouth gal pal and the unflappable Pierce Brosnan as one of the maybe-dads.
I could do without "Dancing Queen" stuck in my head, but that will unstick soon enough, and with any luck so too will the memory of Streep noodling on an air guitar.
Mamma Mia!, Eastgate, Point, Star, Sundance