“Mamma Mia” is as sloppy and wrinkled as the Greek cotton clothes they wear. It’s a welcome departure from the tight, polished production style of modern musicals like “Hairspray” and “High School Musical” (even though those movies were very enjoyable.)
The question remains, will you like this movie if you can’t stand the music of ABBA? Hard to say. I, along with 83% of the population, thought that ABBA was the sappiest band on the radio back in the ’70s. Who knows why they’ve made such a dramatic comeback. Maybe it’s the kitsch factor, but one can’t deny the sheer happy dance-ability of the Swedish foursome’s music.
And after listening more closely to the 20 or so songs strung somewhat clumsily throughout the movie, I have a new appreciation for their storytelling abilities. Some songs fit the plot better than others, but most of them are fun to hear and see. The choreography is exuberant and sometimes silly, as when the young men of the island are dancing on the pier in flippers.
Director Phyllida Lloyd (who also directed the first Broadway production of “Mamma Mia”) is always mindful of the gorgeous Greek locations and people and uses them to great effect in most scenes, especially in the big, colorful showstopper, “Dancing Queen.”
Some of the numbers were corny, such as Streep longing for the financial support of a man in “Money, Money, Money.” But she redeems herself on other songs. She has a lovely voice and is able to infuse ballads like “Slipping Through my Fingers” and “Winner Takes it All” with her trademark emotional intensity. She shines when singing with her best friends, the equally joyful Christine Baranski (from the TV show “Cybill”) and Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasly from “Harry Potter.”)