Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mamma Mia: Cure for The Dark Knight Blues

The Dark Knight was a masterpiece. But it was dark indeed. Mamma Mia, the movie of the Broadway play set to ABBA's songs, is a perfect cure.

My wife and I were talked by our daughter and son into seeing it. Actually, I didn't require too much talking, since I've been a big ABBA fan since the 1970s. In fact, our family used to play ABBA on cassettes as we drove up to Cape Cod in the 1980s and 90s. The group had a winning sincerity in an age that was post Beatles, Stones, and Dylan (though we have never gone too far if at all beyond them). ABBA's songs were innocent, authentic, and unbelievably infectious. I don't think "Dancing Queen" has ever been too far out of my head since I first started hearing it in 1976, and how can anyone resist "Take a Chance on Me" (1978) and, for that matter, just about all of their other songs. Apparently, few people did - ABBA has sold more than 400 million records.

All of the great ABBA songs are in Mamma Mia, in which Sophie, raised by her single mother, invites three men most likely to be her father to her wedding, in order to find out which one is her father. Amanda Seyfried of Big Love plays Sophie, and does it with a wonderful mix of sweetness, comic exaggeration, and serious talent. This movie will put her on the map.

Meryl Streep is the Mamma, and is better than ever, which is saying a lot, since she has been brilliant in every movie she's ever brought to life. Here, it's a pleasure to see a 59-year actress who still has it, shaking it, and singing with the best of them. (Her rendition of ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All" - 1980 - will be a classic.)

Pierce Brosnan plays one of the three possible fathers, and how funny and cool is it seeing James Bond singing ABBA's "SOS" (one of their 1975 hits). Brosnan is no great singer, but he carries a tolerable tune, which is just right for this part.

"Dancing Queen," always my favorite, was performed twice, with Benny Andersson - one of the B's in ABBA - playing piano one of those times. His piano and enthusiasm haven't aged a day.

Benny and the other ABBA "B" - Björn Ulvaeus - are among the movie's executive producers. Bjorne and Benny also appear as Greek gods (the movie takes place on a Grecian isle) under the closing credits. ABBA attended Mamma Mia's world premier in Sweden on July 4, 2008. According to Wikipedia, the group "re-emphasized that they intended never to officially reunite ... They wanted to be remembered for who they were in their prime."

Mamma Mia certainly captures that rare spirit, and more.

clip of Dancing Queen from Mamma Mia - with Benny on piano

ABBA performing "Dancing Queen" in the 1970s

and another story that concerns Grecian isles ...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book
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