Entertainment

Throw your arms in air, give in to 'Mamma Mia!'

BARANSKI), Donna Sheridan (MERYL STREEP) and Rosie Rice (JULIE WALTERS) — lead the Greek chorus in the musical romantic comedy "Mamma Mia!" (Universal Pictures)
BARANSKI), Donna Sheridan (MERYL STREEP) and Rosie Rice (JULIE WALTERS) — lead the Greek chorus in the musical romantic comedy "Mamma Mia!" (Universal Pictures)

As colorful as a peacock feather and just about as insubstantial, "Mamma Mia!" bounces along on the music of ABBA and a cast of pros who sell like there's no tomorrow.

Yeah, the plot and characters are onion-skin thin, but you can't help singing along. And in bringing her stage production to the screen, first-time film director Phyllida Lloyd has retained the show's goofy charm and mostly breathless pacing.

The story unfolds on a Greek island where one-time rocker chick Donna (Meryl Streep) has lived for 20 years, running an edge-of-insolvency hotel and rearing her cute-as-a-button daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Now Sophie is getting married and, desperate for answers about her paternity, has pored over Mom's old diary for clues.

Without telling anyone, the bride-to-be has sent wedding invitations to three men who were Donna's paramours the summer Sophie was conceived: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard). One of them, Sophie is sure, must be her daddy. And that, folks, is pretty much all the story you'll get.

Mamma Donna, a sunburned, wild-haired tough cookie who wears a tool belt and overalls, is given a couple of sidekicks who have come for the nuptials. Tanya (Christine Baranski) is a serial trophy wife and veteran man-eater; Rosie (Julie Walters) is a jovially rowdy writer of best-selling cookbooks. The three spend a lot of time laughing, drinking, hugging, lolling around on beds and in general behaving like high school sophomores.

OK , let's get this out of the way: Streep is 20 years too old for this role. Any attempt to put the characters' histories into a coherent time frame will result in a splitting headache. My advice: Just roll with it.

The songs are what make "Mamma Mia!" Songs like "Honey, Honey," "Money Money, Money, " "Dancing Queen," "The Winner Takes It All" and "SOS" have instant audience recognition.

Here, they tend to burst onto the screen out of nowhere and, at their best, snowball into big production numbers that suck in a Greek chorus of villagers. There's no real dancing -- it's more like rhythmic crowd control -- but you'd have to be Scrooge not to enjoy the Bacchanalian goofiness of it all.

The performances are fine. Streep appears to be having more fun than is legal, bounding around with the energy of a colt and showing comic chops we've never seen. The three suitors also are fine, and although Brosnan really can't sing, he tries so sincerely it's actually kind of sweet.

Expect a good time from "Mamma Mia!" -- the only film this summer that you'll hum all the way home.

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