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How can I resist ya? Easily.

Not to rain on the ABBA lovefest that helped Mamma Mia! earn $27.6 million -- a record for a movie musical in its opening weekend -- but let me just say: I still loathe this musical.

Mammamia Yes, I realize that the stage version of Mamma Mia! is the 17th longest-running show in Broadway history. That the musical has grossed more than $2 billion (yes, billion) worldwide since its premiere in London nine years ago.  That the Broadway production raked in more than $1 million last week.  People love this show.  But not everyone.  Not me.

The ABBA hits? That's different. The songs do everything that vintage pop tunes should do.  They make you happy/wistful/nostalgic.  They excite your inner Dancing Queen, so that on the way out of the theater, you'll doubtless join the throng in dancing/singing your way to the exits.

Mamma Mia! is what's known as a jukebox musical, a show with a plot stuffed around pre-existing songs.  There have been some admirable-to-great examples of the genre -- think Jersey Boys (the story and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) or Movin' Out (songs by Billy Joel) -- but Mamma Mia! weds its terrific music to a plot that plays like a bad romance novel crafted by someone who can't write.

Last weekend, hoping for a miracle courtesy of Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and company, I hit my neighborhood theater to catch Mamma Mia! the movie.  Critics who weren't enamored of the film have already mentioned that the movie marks stage director Phyllida Lloyd's cinematic debut and looks like it.  Despite the sparkling blue beauty of the story's Greek island setting, you may find yourself growing dizzy from the movie's chaotic editing.  Or howling at its from-the-stage-show dance sequences.  Or wondering why the Oscar-winning Streep is hopping around all the time, behaving like a 12-year-old. Groovy, Meryl. 

For sure, I know I'm in a small minority when it comes to people who see Mamma Mia! on purpose. I cringed my way through too much of it, only to be slightly amazed when moviegoers applauded at the end. Sigh.  Here's the trailer, to give you a taste.


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I loved it. Most fun I've had in the movie theater in some time. Great songs, great cast, gorgeous views, and a light fun story. Even Pierce Brosnan's flat singing had its charm. It's all precisely what we need right now, a heaping serving of good-natured fun.
Plus, if they gave that grossly overrated American Idol reject (for good reason) Jennifer Hudson an Oscar for screeching that song in that awful Dreamgirls drivel, Meryl oughta get one for her performance of "The Winner Takes It All." Not only can she sing, she can act too.

can't fight this feeling anymore

I've always been lukewarm on the actual play, but I loved ABBA and thought the songs were swell, so by the end of the play I was enjoying myself thoroughly despite the silliness of the script. I enjoyed the play way more than I did the overhyped and overrated The Producers, which had not one decent song, or Hairspray, originally a lot of fun onscreen but downright dull on stage with all those forgettable numbers, or even the ponderous and deadly Phantom of the Opera, which turned me off musical theater for a decade.

So when I went to see Mamma Mia the movie, I was ready for the slight story. Who cares? What counts is the music and the staging and the cast, and the movie delivered on all counts. OK, so Pierce Brosnan can't sing. That was the point: it was actually pretty amusing to see an ex-James Bond warble S.O.S. And The Dancing Queen girl power bit was so enthusiastically fun! Haven't stopped humming that tune yet.

Seeing Meryl Streep and other actors I know and like (talkin' about you, Colin Firth) gamely go ahead and sing this ridiculously catchy pop was truly enjoyable.

Can't comment on Jersey Boys, since I haven't seen it, but if it's Frankie Valli music I'll stick to ABBA Gold, I think...


Agree with you: CFTFA. Hairspray was OK, some catchy songs, but no less slight a story and not nearly as memorable musically; and can I add Wicked to the hate list? Huge hit but I thought it was a crushing bore, a big gaudy empty jewel box with not one hummable tune or decent voice in the whole cast. I was in hell and the ticket was a Christmas present so I had to pretend to like it so as not to hurt any feelings. Can't remember if Moving Out had a story. I saw it but can't remember a thing about it beyond the fact it had Billy Joel's songs in it. I've heard good things about Jersey Boys but aside from two songs (December 1963 and Who Loves You? from the brief comeback 70s period) I don't know that I can stand 2 hours listening to a male castrati squeel dated 60s ditties like Big Girls Don't Cry and Sherry. OY!

Christine, aka Drama Queen

OK, HoCo and can't fight this feeling anymore, I get that you love ABBA songs and liked the movie. You are CLEARLY in the majority, while I am twisting in the wind with a few other curmudgeonly critics. But don't slam "Jersey Boys" before you've seen it. As jukebox musicals go, it's the standard-setter that makes all the others look (and sound) pitiful. Musically, Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons and ABBA are apples and oranges; theatrically, "Jersey Boys" and "Mamma Mia!" are caviar and rotting fish. Says the sourpuss critic!

can't fight this feeling anymore

Here's the thing about Mamma Mia! I can't really argue that the choreography was special, that the singing was all great, that the plot was anything but the flimsiest of excuses on which to hang a musical. And yet: I didn't CARE. I just had a good time. I am not a person used to just going and enjoying myself despite the quibbles. I'm sure it's all about the ABBA, and Meryl and Colin didn't hurt, but it was just so damned much fun.

Can't discuss Wicked - haven't seen that one either. That's the other thing: I never like musicals! And here I liked one. It was infectious!


I guess I'll try Jersey Boys when it comes here cuz I do know it's a very well received hit and I at least like to have my own opinion.
I agree, too, that it would be easy to find flaws with the Mamma Mia! movie. The choreography really was non-existent. I can recognize that. At least the Grease movie had great choreography. And, technically, I kinda cringed a bit at the guys in flippers and bathing suits dance on the docks during my favorite of the songs, Lay All Your Love on Me. But it was so damned good-natured and infectious and uplifting, resistance was futile! I'm not even a fan of musicals either. There are exceptions of course (The Lion King was magical).

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