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Sun, March 24

Movie Review: All-ABBA musical is fun but nowhere near pitch-perfect

Donna (Meryl Streep) and friends have lots to sing about in “Mamma Mia.”

Courtesy<br> Donna (Meryl Streep) and friends have lots to sing about in “Mamma Mia.”

Playing: Frontier Village 10 Ciné; 445-7515

Harkins Prescott Valley 14; 775-2284

Rated: Rated PG-13 for some sex-related comments.

Cast: Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Dominic Cooper.

Plot: Anyone who has seen the stage production knows the story. Sophie (Seyfried) is about to marry her 20-something fiancé Sky (Cooper) at her mother's hotel on a small Greek island. One minor cloud drifts across the otherwise sun-filled setting, though: Sophie has no idea who her father is. Neither, apparently, does her mother Donna (Streep). Sophie finds mom's diary and discovers that, in a spate of love affairs and rebounds, Donna slept with three men, any one of whom could be Sophie's long-absent dad.

Sophie invites each of the three to the wedding, hoping that she will somehow recognize the father she has never seen.

Sure enough, Sam (Brosnan), Harry (Firth) and Bill (Skarsgård) show up simultaneously, on the day before the big event. Between the dancing, singing and drinking, each man comes to believe that he's Sophie's father, promising to give her away at the altar.

Donna remains clueless, however, as she relives her liberated and carefree musical past with her old pals Rosie (Walters) and Tanya (Baranski).

The original stage production, written around and cleverly adapted to the songs of ABBA, the Swedish pop group from the late 1970s and early '80s, has thrived for nearly 10 years, causing theatergoers to dance in the aisles to hits like "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "Waterloo."

The film version, however, will most likely fade away to DVD release before the end of the summer.

Star Player: Meryl Streep. She tries (though too hard at times) and actually appears to have fun in her role as Donna. She can sing, too, which makes the film a bit more enjoyable than it otherwise might have been.

Best Line: "I don't care if you slept with hundreds of men. You're my mom - I still love you." - Sophie to Donna, in the church filled with wedding guests.

My take: I am an ABBA fan from way back, when I was 17 and a dancing queen. I saw the play and found it to be quite entertaining, fun and melodic.

The film version of the play, though, is so sickly sweet and sappy that I had to brush my teeth and gargle afterwards.

With its amateur singers, this musical is not a soundtrack aficionado's delight. At times, the songs are painful to listen to, especially when Brosnan pipes up, sounding like a howling wolf.

Some songs I honestly had never heard, even though I thought my collection of ABBA's albums was complete. I think they scraped the barrel to find something - anything - that could relate to whatever scene they were plodding through.

Did I laugh? Absolutely, especially during the closing credits when the trio times two dresses up in true ABBA fashion and seemingly makes fun of the entire adventure.

Still, ABBA should be cringing, though they're most likely laughing all the way to the bank with royalties from their classic songs, no matter how poorly sung.

Stars: Three out of five.


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