Sure, you could try to strike a detached ironic pose while watching the big-screen version of Mamma Mia! the global blockbuster stage musical, but you’d be missing out on a lot of fun. And-because the setting, a sunny Greek isle, feels like being on vacation-it’s easier to suspend disbelief as an entire fishing village joins elaborate set pieces, warbling the deliriously catchy tunes of Swedish pop supergroup ABBA.
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), raised on the island by her American expat single mom Donna (Meryl Streep), is about to get married. Having recently stumbled onto the identities of three men who might be her father, Sophie secretly invites all three to the nuptials, convinced she’ll know which one is her dad as soon as she sees him. To her surprise, all three (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsg¥rd) show up, but no one-including her-is sure who can claim paternity. Meanwhile, Donna keeps trying to throw the trio off the island in a misguided attempt to spare Sophie’s feelings.
For those who aren’t ABBA fans (and it’s truly eerie how songs one hasn’t heard in 30 years can roar back into the consciousness), the three main reasons to see the film are not the male leads, but Streep and Julie Walters and Christine Baranski as Donna’s old friends Rosie and Tanya. The film seems to be as much about middle-aged people claiming second chances at life and love as it is about young people starting out as adults, and the three women are clearly having the time of their lives, with Baranski in particular giving a bravura performance. Brosnan, by contrast, gamely makes a go of it, but he is by no means a singer. The chronology of the film doesn’t quite add up (the flashback scenes and old photos are clearly of ‘70s vintage, but Sophie is only 20), but no matter. Despite its warm embrace of “alternative lifestyles” and a premise based on what was clearly a lot of unsafe sex, Mamma Mia! is good clean fun, with a satisfying twist at the end and an extremely entertaining credit sequence.