Sophie (Seyfried) invites three men (Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgard) who could be her father to her wedding in Greece, unbeknownst to her single mother Donna (Streep). Shock reunions, confusions and Abbas greatest hits ensue.
Okay, it ain’t West Side Story, but any musical that’s packed them in for a decade, played 170 cities in eight languages and been seen by over 30 million people clearly has something going for it. That something is the songs of innocent vitality and mature heartbreak from the classic Abba catalogue; Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’s tunes inspired and propel a charming, energetic little tale that is basically a hen party with bells on.
Since the greatest actress of her generation can also sing, Meryl Streep was an obvious shoo-in when the show’s creators got the backing of Tom Hanks’s Playtone (looking for another Big Fat Greek Wedding?) to make the movie version. Streep and her comedic bosom buddies, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, make a mighty sweet rumpus as the aging ex rock chicks. Amanda Seyfried and The History Boys’ Dominic Cooper play the young lovers, and are suitably attractive in beachwear. And then Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and token Swede Stellan Skarsgard, as the possible fathers, cavort with a blushing agreeability and are, arguably, more endearing for their air of schoolboy effort than polished musical stars would be.
As you would expect, performance quality thus ranges from Streep emotively nailing ’The Winner Takes It All’ to taverna karaoke. The manly contingent have the sheepish air of men who would rather be at football, but they get how amusing it is when they burst into song, and gamely play along.
The major gripe is that, as we’ve often seen when a respected stage director steps to the screen, the results of mixing realism with theatricality are, well, mixed. Some sequences work. There’s a joyous ‘Dancing Queen’, which sees Streep and gal pals drawing village women down to the sea. ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ hilariously features a beach boy chorus line stomping their stuff in flippers. Other bits betray a maddening want of cinematic savvy. In Streep and Brosnan’s big moment his head is cut off. What the hell? Any kid with a camera could have found another angle or stood Meryl on a crate.
But it’s full of super troupers and smiles. Don’t leave during the credits or you’ll miss the encore, with the stars in 70s satin and platform boots giving ‘Waterloo’ plenty of welly.
Cute, clean, camp fun, full of sunshine and toe tappers. Guaranteed to put grins on tweenies who are in to High School Musical, grans with a pair of platforms still at the back of the wardrobe, and a lot of people in between tone.