My "Meryl rule", roughly speaking, states that I will pay to see Meryl Streep standing quietly on a sidewalk, so as far as I'm concerned whatever movie she's in is fair game. So, as such, I simply had to go see Mamma Mia! last Friday, despite all the bad reviews. And yes, many of the criticisms are spot on. But through all the moments of awkwardness, occasional bad cuts, and some amateurish photoshop scenes, this was one of the funnest movie experiences in a long time. So what makes the movie worth every single one of the 12 bucks that I paid for it?
1. The women - Meryl Streep takes silly to a whole new level - even more so than in Death Becomes Her - and her relentless energy and sheer physical strength make me wonder if the the elixir of youth from the said 1992 movie was more than just a plot element. Her on-screen craziness is outdone only by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters who both contribute with memorable musical numbers. But the real star of the movie is Amanda Seyfried, who arguably has the most to prove - and does so stunningly. Who knew that the cousin-fucking weather-forecasting blondie in Mean Girls was secretly in possession of this amazing voice and radiant yet not annoying personality?
2. The men - While not as musically impressive or entertaining as the women in the flick, they deserve a few nods: for having the courage to sing (in the case of Pierce Brosnan), for exposing themselves in cringe-inducing ways (Stellan Skarsgård, Colin Firth), for being hot (Juan Pablo Di Pace) or even-hotter-than-you-knew (Dominic Cooper).
3. ABBA - This may be quite obvious but the music is fun fun fun! - which I admit may be lost on those that didn't grow up listening to ABBA and can't sing along to every song in the movie. Apart from doing just that, I wanted to get up and dance - almost as much as I actually did during the Goran Bregovic concert not too long ago.. unfortunately the theater was full of civilized gays - not nearly as uninhibited as the Balkan folks who rocked out in the isles of Avery Fisher hall during Bregovic.
4. Greece - the stunningly gorgeous scenery clearly boosts the feel-good quotient of the movie and makes everyone look beautiful and happy - and will make you want to take a vacation immediately. No, this is no cerebral affair.
So I say: read the reviews (my favourite is A. O. Scott), adjust your expectations accordingly and go have fun - it's summertime!