The long-awaited big screen adaptation, starring a careworn Meryl Streep, does manage to provide a few moments of joyful delight, but those come mostly from the beautiful Greek surroundings and giddy camp of the ABBA songs rather than anything derived from the film itself.

The story, loosely tied together by the hit songs of ABBA, concerns a young directionless bride-to-be, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who secretly invites three men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard) to her upcoming wedding which is take place at mom's (Meryl Streep) run-down inn on the beautiful Greek island of Kalokairi. Sophie knows one of these men is her father, but is not sure which one. In the meantime, her frenzied mom, Donna, blows an emotional gasket once she finds out her three former boyfriends all show up at the same time. A mostly-silly string of misunderstandings and nonsensical circumstances follow that do little more than provide a visual hook to set up the next ABBA number. You know there's another one coming, but unlike on the stage, the songs in the film are dropped in at awkward moments.

Mamm Mia!It's amusing to watch the assembled cast including Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as Donna's friends sing and dance, but most of the numbers call for the performers to engage in goofy sight gags and pure slapstick silliness. While we're on the subject of singing performances, let's discuss that of Pierce Brosnan. On second thought, let's not. He's clearly a fish out of water here, his singing voice closely resembling that of... well, mine.

With the phenomenal success of the stage musical seen by more than 30 million people across the globe, it's hard to imagine the film version was adapted by the same author, Catherine Johnson. But then again, it makes sense, as this represents her freshman effort, and consequently, she's never really able to capture the same magic. What feels charming, intimate, and buoyant on stage, comes across as sloppy and careless on film. The camera picks up far more delicate details than can be seen on stage. Here, the actors overact, the camera work is terrible, and the costumes are garish and tacky.

Also struggling in this film version is first time director Phyllida Lloyd, whose work ultimately deals the death-knell to the screen version of Mamma Mia!. She's clearly not yet comfortable with framing and screening camera shots. It seems that when not sure what to do, she perches the camera high atop a craggy hillside and let's the proceedings carry on. We're left with some strange shots that, while sometimes stunningly beautiful, often feel like a crutch of inexperience. "Not sure what to do here, let's make it a long shot," was probably uttered more than once on the set.

Technical faults aside, there are still plenty of things that did work in the film, namely the songs of ABBA. Although no one ever claimed to actually listen to any of the songs when they saturated the radio waves back in the day, their catchy allure can't be denied. While the desire to dance in the aisles during the stage play (some actually did so) was missing from the film, it's actually quite remarkable how expertly the lyrics outline the plot. That's no mistake as Johnson spent countless hours poring over ABBA's complete repertoire to create a story that has universal resonance. So, rest assured that whenever the proceedings begin to veer off-track (and they will), there's always the next song just around the corner that'll surely prop things up for, at least, the next few minutes.

Component Grades
2 stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.78:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French-Canadian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurette; "Lose Myself" music video by Ms. Lauryn Hill; original short "The ChubbChubbs Save Xmas".

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with director Phyllida Lloyd
* Featurettes
o Sing-along feature with on-screen lyrics for the entire movie
o Making-of featurette
o Becoming a singer featurette
o On location featurette
* Music video: music video

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging