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.
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.