I grew up to the songs of Swedish group ABBA (yeah, I was born in the 70s, can?), and yes I'm fan enough to have bought their definitive collection CD and DVD years ago to add to my library, and have it all in my iPod so that I can listen to the evergreens that never fail to put a smile on my face, although some songs actually have really heartbreaking moments in them if you listen carefully.
Hollywood continues to plunder past musicals on stage and previously on screen, to come up with an updated version for celluloid, and it's actually no surprise that they roped in director Phyllida Lloyd, who directed the original Broadway play, to helm the cinematic version of Mamma Mia! which in itself is quite genius to have been able to design a narrative around the songs already published by the pop band. And the result of course is nothing less than a crowd pleaser, especially for a fan like myself.
I guess the trailers would already put in enough hints on what the storyline is about, that plays out like a Greek comedy with a bride to be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) in wanting to know who her real father is, invited all the potentials from her mother Donna's (Meryl Streep) colorful free loving, hippie past, to attend her wedding with the ultimate aim of course to give her away during the ceremony. So the three of them - Bull Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard), Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) and Harry Bright (Colin Firth) all turn up, leading to a comedy of errors, of reminiscence of a time gone by, of relationships turned sour, or what could have beens.
Playing out over 24 hours at a Greek island where Donna runs a small crumbling hotel, you can tell that everyone of the star studded cast had a field day on set, especially when hamming up their respective characters - you can't get enough of Donna's posse in Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski) - and there are enough ABBA songs to go around either for individuals to showcase their singing prowess (or lack thereof!) or to come together as an ensemble group to just let their hair down and have a lot of fun. Some would have deemed Meryl Streep not being able to deliver, but I thought she did well enough, and Amanda Seyfried at certain angles bore some uncanny resemblance to add some believability as her daughter.
Pierce Brosnan on the other hand, you can tell was having a tough time trying to sound and sing convincingly. But that aside, I chuckled at plenty of moments when the hotel employees / Greek island inhabitants join in the chorus, and some infectious dance choreography when everyone chips in just makes this one heck of a pre-wedding celebrations.
And if you need some reaffirmation of why you need to watch a musical in the cinemas, look no further than Mamma Mia!. At first I frowned at the distributors for delaying its premiere here for so long, then now perhaps realized it was a shrewd move on their part (as always), probably to help enhance the cinema going experience. Prints after late August come with lyrics at the bottom of the screen, so yep, we get the Sing Along Edition over here. And boy, the hall I was in - I think I was the only (*ahem* inconsiderate) one initially lending my vocals, whistling and humming to each song - by the time the last few songs came around, EVERYONE was singing along, kickstarted by the very moving song that happened to be my favourite of them all.
So you know what to do, when you hit the cinemas for this. Lead and sing along, since the lyrics are there for all and sundry. And you'll get that fuzzy feeling when everyone else does the same thing. I heart Mamma Mia! and you'll be hard pressed not to too!
And my favourite ABBA song of all time is....