Film: 'Mama Mia'; Cast: Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan; Director: Phyllida Lloyd; Rating: ***
There's only one reason why someone may not enjoy this feast of flourish. You've to hate the music of ABBA. And to hate ABBA you've to belong to another planet.
The idea rocks. The screenwriter has strung together a kaleidoscopic cluster of ABBA's most cherished numbers in a plot of a young girl on a scenic island who invites three of her potential fathers to her wedding.
Mama (mia) is the majestic Meryl Streep letting her hair down, crooning one imperishable ABBA track after another as though her life depended on her ability to rustle up one or the other of the scintillating Swedish quartet's melodies at the drop of a hat.
Joining her in her journey into the region of abiding music-magic are her screen-friends who bring to the table a tempo and tenor that goes beyond the vibrancy, enthusiasm and gusto of a homage to one of the most enduring pop-cultural phenomena of all times.
'Mama Mia' is more. It tells us how music, more than any other form of diversion and entertainment, can be cool and cathartic.
Naturally, the plot is slender. And just as pretty to look at from the outside and inside. The songs pilot and manoeuvre the mellow magical characters into a state of suspended splendour. The middle-aged characters acquire a state of youthful exuberance as they jump on top of beds, tables and rooftops to belt out one delightful nostalgia-soaked ABBA melody after another.
Yes, it would be difficult for a non-ABBA fan to enjoy the music as much as the ABBA devotee. But it's not at all hard to convert to the contagious easygoing fluent joie de vivre of the music as the pretty little Sophie finds herself a father and gets herself a bridegroom all in one breathless swoop of sonority and melody.
The entire cast is delightfully ABBA-bound. Julie Walters being seduced by a young native on the island bursts into 'Does your mother know', which is one of the most finely choreographed numbers in the film.
The narration swoops us into scoop after scoop of delectable music. The three fathers remembering their heydays with Sophie's mom belt out 'Our last summer'. And Pierce Brosnon gets it right when he sings an anguished 'SOS' for the magical Meryl.
What can we say about Meryl that we haven't already heard?
Now revealing herself as an incurable ABBA fan Meryl sings and dances to those imperishable melodies with a sprightly grace that leaves us smiling, laughing and, yes, singing. Those critics abroad who thought it was a cakewalk for this camera chameleon to do ABBA's number need to check out the skills required to sing and dance to songs that generations have grown up on.
See 'Mama Mia' not just as a tribute to the music of ABBA. See it as the consummate treatise on the power of music to heal and nourish the soul.