Exuberant fun that’s worth the build-up

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Exuberant fun that’s worth the build-up

As a longtime ABBA fan, I have been known to belt out-of-tune renditions of the Swedish pop group’s hits in many a noraebang. And as someone who was lucky enough to see the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!” onstage, I was as giddy as a Tiger Beat-toting teenybopper when I found out that Mamma Mia! was being adapted into a film production.

The film opened a long month and a half ago in the United States, and in the meantime I’ve been listening to the movie’s soundtrack in eager anticipation. Now, at long last, Mamma Mia! is finally here.

With such a build-up, it would have been easy for Mamma Mia! the movie to be a giant letdown.

But thankfully, director Phyllida Lloyd’s adaptation is every bit as deserving of its title’s exclamation point as the stage production was. The story’s still the same: The daughter of a former pop star-turned-hotel owner tries to figure out the identity of her father on the eve of her wedding - and finds out that she has three possible dads. Hilarity ensues.

But that’s not to say Mamma Mia! is without flaws. Big-budget Hollywood productions need big names. And rarely can those big names sing like Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid of ABBA. But for all Meryl Streep as mirthful matriarch Donna Sheridan lacks in lung power, she makes up for it with her emotional delivery.

It’s the men who are really lacking vocal talent. Pierce Brosnan as Sam Carmichael, one of Donna’s many past lovers, basically growls out all his tunes. In the role of another old flame, Harry Bright, Colin Firth’s adorably sweet speaking voice comes out rather whimpery in song.

But if there’s something that Mamma Mia! the movie has got, it’s star power. And the three previously mentioned actors dominate the marquee, although there’s great casting all around.

I’ll admit, while the movie was in production, I critically questioned Lloyd’s choice of casting blonde Americans Streep and Amanda Seyfried as the leading ladies, when the two original brunette stage actresses sang with distinctly British accents. Then there was her dubious choice of Pierce Brosnan, the quintessential Brit, as the American architect Sam.

But on the Greek island paradise in which Mamma Mia! is set, such trivialities cease to matter, especially when the singing begins.

Seyfried, previously relegated to supporting roles such as the hilariously vapid Karen in “Mean Girls” and sassy murder victim Lilly Kane in the TV series “Veronica Mars,” is absolutely winsome as bride-to-be Sophie, Donna’s daughter. Here’s hoping that her performance in Mamma Mia! makes her a bigger star.

But in the midst of this glowing review, here’s where I have to add a disclaimer: People like my old editor-in-chief, or really, just about anyone who considers “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” and “Super Trouper” abominations of music, will hate Mamma Mia! They’ll probably find it the most annoying movie ever.

But if, like me, you have a soft spot in your heart for “Dancing Queen” and sequins, you will enjoy this movie - especially if you find dance numbers in scuba gear delightful.

Mamma Mia!

Musical, Comedy / English

108 min.

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By Hannah Bae Contributing Writer [hannahbae@gmail.com]
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