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Movies Review

Mamma Mia!

By
Mamma Mia!
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Screenwriters: Catherine Johnson
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Dominic Cooper
Running Time: 98mins
Certificate: PG

Stage musicals tend to divide people in to two clear camps. For some, the sudden bursts of song, jazz hands and pinned-back smiles are a little too much to take, but for others, they are simple, joyous escapism. Mamma Mia!, the big screen adaptation of the West End Abba musical, will divide people in a similar manner.

The plot, which is thinner than a size-zero supermodel on the Atkins diet, takes place on the "magical" Greek island Kalokairi, where Donna (Streep) and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) run their own hotel. Sophie, who is about to marry her dreamboat lover Sky (Cooper), decides to find out who her real father is by inviting the three men that her mother slept with 20 years ago to her wedding.

Not wanting to upset her mum, Sophie tries to keep their visit a secret, in the hope she can work out which is her real dad before the ceremony. The three men, businessman Sam (Brosnan), adventurer Bill (Skarsgard) and banker Harry (Firth), return to the island and soon bump into Donna and begin to relive their old romances. Unaware that the men have been brought to the island by Sophie, Donna hides her feelings for her old flames and attempts to get the men off the island before the wedding.

Within this vague excuse for a plot there are also the ongoing antics of Donna's best friends and former bandmates Rosie (Walters) and Tanya (Baranski). The duo become embroiled in their own romantic subplots, while also attending to Donna's troubles and relationship woes.

While the story may sound faintly ridiculous, it's nothing in comparison to the high-camp song and dance routines that arrive every two or three minutes in the movie. With all the cast members throwing themselves into the Abba karaoke with gusto, not even Victor Meldrew at his grumpiest would be able to stop himself cracking a smile. Credit must go to the cast because on paper it sounds like an awful idea, but in practice it's charming and endearing.

The script handily twists every couple of minutes so that the film can shoe-horn 22 hits from the Swedish pop maestros within the hour-and-a-half running time. Highlights include the gloriously daft 'Money, Money, Money', which arrives abruptly when we're told that Donna's hotel is struggling for cash, and a hilarious version of 'Does Your Mother Know' from Baranski that features around 50 toned-up topless blokes cavorting around a beach in scenes akin to Elton John's 'I'm Still Standing' video from 1983.

If Brosnan was concerned that he may still be typecast as James Bond, he well and truly destroys any lingering memories of his gun totin' days as 007 with a hilarious over-the-top 'SOS'. Elsewhere, Walters is her usual loveable self and Firth wheels out his bumbling, posho-bloke routine for another outing.

1995's Muriel's Wedding, which was also centered around Abba's hits, may have been a superior movie, but Mamma Mia! succeeds in its central aim: proving that Benny and Bjorn made some of the finest pop songs in living memory. Not many acts could pack out a whole movie with sing-a-longs, while the innocence of their music is a refreshing alternative to the highly-sexualized, over-produced music of today.

If you're the sort of person that cringes every time someone bursts into song in a film or if you reckon Abba's back catalogue should be confined to wedding discos and hen nights then you're best steering clear. However, anybody who has secretly bopped around to ABBA Gold, will love this movie from start to finish. It's unadulterated trashy fun, which looks destined for the sort of cult status granted to the likes of Dirty Dancing and Flashdance.

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