Film review – Mamma Mia! (2008)

The massively successful stage musical Mamma Mia! uses the much-loved songs by 70s mega pop group ABBA to underpin a breezy comedy of manners about a young bride who, unbeknownst to her mother, invites the three men who could be her father to her wedding. As the wedding ceremony approaches misunderstandings, confusions and general wackiness ensue.

In this film adaptation, by the same team responsible for the original show, ABBA’s lesser-known songs work a lot better than their mega hits, which struggle to integrate into the story. Still it is difficult not to smile when “Dancing Queen” starts as a small number to then escalate into a full-blown outdoor dance spectacular. Seeing former James Bond Pierce Brosnan break into a sincere rendition of “S.O.S.” is also a moment worth savouring.

Most musicals require high-energy performances plus a degree of strategic restraint and comic timing. The three potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) and bewildered mother (Meryl Streep) make this balancing act look easy but the younger cast members resort to wide-eyed posturing and endless shrieking. Mamma Mia! is uneven and overlong but who cares? ABBA fans are going to love it.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 308, 2008

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008