Reel Shorts | Mamma Mia

19 07 2008

For over thirty years, Meryl Streep has always been Hollywood royalty. In her latest film, “Mamma Mia,” Streep plays WAY against type, letting it all hang out for a fun romp with mostly pleasant results.

With the recent success of musicals such as “Dreamgirls,” “Chicago” and “Hairspray,” it was only a matter of time before “Mamma Mia” would get its chance to shine on the big screen. Featuring sparkling blue scenic water, this story of a young bride-to-be, Sophie who longs to have her missing father give her away on her wedding day. She has no idea who he is but she has an idea.

After stealing her distracted mother’s diary, she quickly settles on three possible candidates, adventurous Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), handsome Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and former hippie Harry (Colin Firth). In no time she invites them to her wedding and much to her surprise they all come. Sophie must figure out which one is the her father – while trying to hide them from her unsuspecting mother, Donna (Streep).

While Sophie’s looking for her mother’s baby daddy, Donna has her hands full putting the final touches on the wedding with her visiting former bandmates, the free-spirited Rosie, (Julie Walters) and uptight queen, Tanya (Christine Baranski). A former wild child, Donna has become a single frustrated owner of a exotic Greek hotel resigned to a life of loneliness. But when she spots her pasts loves it brings back a rush of memories that she would rather forget.

But the story takes a backseat to an impressive book of songs from Swedish pop group, Abba. The first rule of making a successful musical is that you must have good songs and boy there some very good ones in this film. Which brings us to rule number two that you need a cast that can deliver said songs. For the most part, this cast of established actors holds their own – but we’ll get back to that later.

While Waters steals every scene she’s in with a plucky, fun performance the real surprise is 14-time Oscar nominee, “Super Trouper” Streep. While she has carved out an impressive career with a string of legendary dramatic performances, unbeknown to many Streep not only took opera singing lessons as a child and performed in musicals in high school. During her career, she performed songs in two films, “Postcards From The Edge” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”

In no time, Streep and her cohorts, Donna and the Dynamos are transformed into diva “Dancing Queens,” belting out one fun song after another. But they don’t get to have all the fun – the boys jump in for their share of tunes, with mixed results. While Brosnan is best known as the super suave secret agent 007, much of his singing in this film was double-oh-no! Loud laughter resonated from the audience during the his wretched rendition of “S.O.S.”

While Streep deserves kudos for throwing herself into the role, much like Diana Ross in “The Wiz,” she looked a tad too mature for this role. But small complaints aside, this live-action version is inferior to the stage production. While the movie has star wattage, what it doesn’t have are the voices to really make the stirring songs soar.

Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again are producers Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks who turned $5 million investment into $241 million which still stands as one of the biggest returns in Hollywood history with another Greek film, 2002’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

With a cast of attractive actors, beautiful island scenery and plenty of bouncy ’70s songs, the film may be far from perfect but it is fun. But that doesn’t stop the talented cast from giving it the old college try. By the time “Mamma Mia” ends it will prove that even “you can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life / See that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the dancing queen!”

Grade: C+

“Mamma Mia” Trailer




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