The brassy, bawdy musical "Mamma Mia!" presents itself as a piece of clever counter-programming to this summer's surfeit of pounding, effects-driven comic-book movies. But filmgoers eager to sample its sunny, synth-pop pleasures are likely to feel just as bludgeoned: in this case by an Abba-bomb wrapped in a huge turquoise-colored feather boa.
That's not to say that fun isn't to be had watching Meryl Streep literally let her hair down while she croons through the show; this is a movie guaranteed to please crowds, if only because it insists on their affection so strenuously.
Streep plays Donna Sheridan, mother of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who is about to get married. Sophie has invited three men to the wedding, one of whom might be her biological father: Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard), Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) and Harry Bright (Colin Firth). Meanwhile, Donna has invited two old friends: a wisecracking Rosie (Julie Walters) and the Botoxed Tanya (Christine Baranski).
Streep & Co. seem way too old to play people who were presumably in their 20s in 1979, and director Phyllida Lloyd doesn't seem to have made singing ability a criterion for casting "Mamma Mia!," which is based on the stage hit. Streep, however, is a wonderment, belting her way to another winning performance. But those rare moments seem completely at odds with the film's worship of all things synthetic, from the music itself it to the contrivance that the movie is both propelled by and represents.
-- Ann Hornaday (July 18, 2008)
Contains sex-related comments.