I have few regrets, with the possible exception of hearing Pierce Brosnan sing in "Mamma Mia!" I am second to none in my admiration for the ageless Irish thespian, but in musical movie of the Broadway sensation he sounds like a seal giving birth. And I’m being nice.
But he only has two songs and in both is rescued by the back-up.
Now for full disclosure: I have never been an ABBA fan. Sure, once in awhile "Take a Chance on Me" is OK, but two hours of the Swedish singers is not my idea of a good time. Which is why "Mamma Mia!" was somewhat of a pleasant surprise.
Amanda Seyfried plays 20-year-old Sophie, who lives on a Greek isle with her hotel-keeper mother Donna (Meryl Streep). Having grown up without a father, Sophie finds clues to his existence in her mother’s diary and sends invitations out to the three candidates to attend her wedding. When they show up, this doesn’t sit too well with Mom.
Is there anything Streep can’t do? Just two years after her virtuoso performance in "The Devil Wears Prada," Streep comes up with another winner. She is a dynamo here, but retains a certain vulnerability. And she can sing.
Allentown’s Seyfried comes off well, too. Her youthful exuberance saves the movie when it gets a little heavy. Although she has been an actress and model since age 11, she has a undeniable freshness.
Some of the numbers were a little too kitschy, but one can’t deny the songs’ artfulness. Mostly written by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus (both of ABBA) and Stig Anderson (the band’s manager), they are mini-symphonies.
Despite wall-to-wall tunes, what really got me was the story. Although Sophie seems to be the center, it’s Donna who comes to terms with her choices. There aren’t a lot of films these days about middle-aged angst, much less musicals surrounded by ABBA songs. The theme is handled well, with equal amounts of sensitivity and humor.
Those who love the musical or the ’70s supergroup will love "Mamma Mia!" To those less keen, be forewarned: You might send out an "SOS."
Two-and-a-half reels out of four
In area theaters now
Shine A Light
Few directors use music as well as Martin Scorsese, so who better to make a Rolling Stones concert film? Taken from two 2006 shows on the "A Bigger Bang" tour, "Shine a Light" was filmed at the Beacon Theatre in New York.
Scorsese used eight cinematographers to capture The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band as it showers the appreciative crowd with the usual nuggets and dust off some old gems.