10. It’s the silliest movie — silly without being downright stupid or offensive or bad — you’ll see this year. Musicals always require an extra suspension of disbelief, movie musicals even moreso than stage musicals. For the first half-hour of this movie, every time someone bursts into song you have to push past that mental barrier that says, “No, this isn’t happening.” But it is, and eventually you just accept and embrace it.
9. It’s on a GREEK ISLAND. You could forgive this movie a lot just for the fun of looking at the scenery.
8. Apart from all the well-known ABBA hits (more on those later), it features my favourite little-known ABBA song, “Our Last Summer,” which was not a huge hit back in the day and never seems to get played on the oldies stations or put on ABBA compilations. It’s a sweet, poignant little song about a long-lost summer love, and it’s haunted me for years. It was great to see it front and centre in this movie, and Colin Firth did a nice job singing it.
7. Speaking of sweet, poignant songs, I defy ANY mom who has a daughter (or maybe even any parent who has a child) not to tear up during the song “Slipping Through My Fingers All the Time,” which Meryl Streep’s character sings while helping her daughter dress for her wedding. Someone told me this was a song written just for the musical, not an ABBA original — and though it starts with the image of a little girl starting off to school, it certainly has that older, wiser, later-in-life feel that makes it believable as a song a parent could sing on her daughter’s wedding day. But in fact it is, like “Our Last Summer” an ABBA oldie that just wasn’t a huge hit at the time. It was recorded back in 81, and was written about Bjorn and Agnetha’s daugther, who was 5 at the time (at least, if Wikipedia can be trusted).
6. Speaking of Meryl Streep, let’s address the issue of her casting in this movie. She’s ridiculously too old for the role she’s playing — Donna should be a woman in her early 40s, judging by the storyline. Streep, the actresses who play her two best friends, and two of the three actors who play her old boyfriends are all at least 15 years too old for their roles, and they look it. And why would you cast a woman best known as a serious dramatic actress in a lightweight musical that doesn’t require serious acting chops, but needs a good singer and comic actress? Casing Meryl Streep as Donna is ridiculous on every level — but it works. Yeah, the age difference is annoying, but at least if a Hollywood actress is going to be the wrong age for the part she’s playing, it’s cool that she’s too OLD rather than too young — how often does that happen? And Meryl Streep’s singing voice is surprisingly good.
5. All the cast seem to be having a lot of fun. They may have all hated each other and been bickering the whole time — who knows? — but it sure looks like they were having a blast. I can’t wait to see the DVD extras for this when it comes out.
4. If you go see this movie, you will be stuck with ABBA earworms for days afterwards. And I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. I have no shame about having liked ABBA back in the day and I still like them now.
3. This movie unabashedly celebrates middle-aged female sexuality, which is great. Watching Christine Baranski’s performance of “Does Your Mother Know?” (a completely ridiculous set piece that has nothing to do with the plot of the movie but is obviously there JUST so she can knock ’em dead with this song) is a triumph for the menopausal woman’s sense of her own feminine power, and you gotta like that.
2. It’s also a celebration of female friendship and female fun. The best big musical number in the whole thing is “Dancing Queen” (which is also the point at which I stopped resisting the whole musical concept and just caved and accepted it), when Donna and her friends, joined by every woman on the island, throw off duty and responsibility and go exuberantly dancing down to the sea to the strains of the catchiest tune EVER. You’d have to be the world’s biggest grump (or, like, some kind of big film critic or sometihng) not to be having fun by this point.
And … the number one reason to love Mamma Mia! …
1. He can’t sing — in fact, he actually looks like he’s in pain when he tries — and he butchers the two solos the plot requires him to sing … but I couldn’t bring myself to find it anything but charming. Pierce Brosnan (at 55 — again, too old for the role, but I’ve stopped caring) is as hot as ever. I’ve been in love with him since Remington Steele and some things never change.
I’ve seen this movie twice this summer — the second time taking Emma, which made it a real tearfest when we got to the tender mother/daughter song — and now that the singalong version is here I’m open to a third visit (make me an offer!). When it comes out on DVD I’ll be buying it with the full intention of hosting a singalong Mamma Mia! party for a bunch of sexy, empowered middle-aged women who don’t mind admitting they like ABBA (in other words, most of my friends). Play your cards right and you might get on the invite list … if not, lay aside your foolish pride and go see the silliest movie of the summer while it’s still in theatres.