Julie Walters, Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski in Mamma Mia! (2008)

Gimme Gimme Gimme More Musicals Like This One

On paper "Mamma Mia!" is a movie which shouldn't really appeal to me, a seriously girly movie, a modern musical and featuring the songs of Abba, those same tunes which remind me of being an 8 year old during the 70s. But then strangely "Mamma Mia!" is a movie which once watched wins you over with it's fun musical style, charming and amusing performances and a soundtrack which doesn't remind me of being an 8 year old, even it's heavily chick flick feel doesn't really alienate me either.

On the eve of her wedding Sophie (Amanda Seyfried - Dear John) decides to try and find her father, rummaging through her mother, Donna's (Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada) diaries she discovers the names of three men, Bill (Stellan Skarsgård - The Glass House) Sam (Pierce Brosnan - Dante's Peak) and Harry (Colin Firth - Then She Found Me) who could be her father and invites each of them to return to the Greek island for her wedding. But when they turn up Sophie struggles to not only work out which could be her father but also hide them from her mother and her friends.

Stellan Skarsgard, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia! (2008)

What was quite a surprise was how enjoyable the storyline to "Mamma Mia!" is as it looks and sounds like a chick flick but then delivers so much more. The fact that we have a young girl on the eve of her marriage finding herself in the troublesome situation of meeting the three men who could quite possibly be her father makes it good fun. As does that her mother doesn't know that her 3 ex summer loves have all been duped into returning to the island for the wedding. It provides plenty of comedy and not just fluffy romantic stuff either actually making you laugh at the sort of fantasy elements as Donna and Sophie interacts with them. In fact even without the comedy the storyline is actually, and I can't believe I am saying this, quite clever and enjoyable.

Much of why "Mamma Mia!" works though is the music and the songs from Abba and in the context of the movie, built into a musical tale, they work brilliantly. There are plenty of foot tapping moments as we watch the cast perform outrageous renditions of the likes of "Super Trouper" and "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)". But I had forgotten that there were also softer songs written by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus such as the lovely "Slipping Through My Fingers" and "Our Last Summer". It's also quite pleasant that the actual cast, famous actors such as Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski actually sing the songs themselves, even when some of them are obviously not so comfortable with singing.

It is also down to this wonderful cast of Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski that makes the movie work because not only do they deliver the whole feeling of musical fun but also emotion during the more gentle moments. You get a real sense that whilst doing a musical took many of them out of their comfort zone as they had to sing and dance, there was a great deal of fun and camaraderie in making the movie and it shows, it makes it work and more importantly makes it enjoyable as no one star tries to steal the limelight.

But the real star of "Mamma Mia!" is in many ways Amanda Seyfried who plays Sophie; she delivers the right amount of youthful cuteness combined with an entertaining character. It's also her wonderful voice as she works her way through various Abba songs which charms you as much as her skill as an actor.

What this all boils down to is that "Mamma Mia!" is a surprisingly good movie and an enjoyable modern musical. It may have a storyline which sounds very chick orientated but it is a movie which revels in musical fun rather than fluffy, girly romance and even the fantasy elements of it all work surprisingly well. But it is the combination of the stellar cast, their ability to not take themselves too seriously whilst having fun singing and dancing to iconic Abba songs which makes "Mamma Mia!" such a surprising delight. If only they would make more musicals like this then maybe the genre would become popular once more.

Tags: British Romantic Comedies