Mamma Mia: A Movie to Laugh At (Not With)

The big-screen version of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia must be seen to be disbelieved.

The script, which is about a young bride-to-be on a Greek island who invites three men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgaard) who might be her father to the nuptials without telling her mother (Meryl Streep), is quick to clarify what is on its mind. Firth and Brosnan are stranded while waiting for a, er, ferry. Colin turns to Pierce to say, “Bugger!” but instead of replying, “No, thank you,” Pierce says, “My sentiments exactly.” Firth, upping the ante, says, “Bollocks!” Brosnan: “My sentiments exactly.” This kind of saucy flirtation hasn’t been seen at the movies since C-3PO first met R2-D2.

The ABBA songs of Mamma Mia are perhaps not the favored anthems of your local rugby squad or Navy SEAL unit to begin with; few are the countries that have been invaded while Voulez-Vous blasts out of the Hummvee, though if ever we have cause to invade Belgium, Waterloo would seem the obvious choice. Nevertheless, the realization of the songs is beyond camp. This is a musical comedy with terrible jokes (“I grew up.” “Then grow back down again”) that is nevertheless hilarious.

Who will ever forget the sight of Streep on a sun-splashed rooftop, writhing suggestively (!) in her overalls, to the title song? Or Streep, again, moving blockily to accompany herself on the goodbye ballad The Winner Takes It All, spinning around on a rock and finally balling up her shawl and flouncing away in a huff of self-pity? When Brosnan, in his blinding white pants, attempts to burst “dramatically” into a doorway so he can croak out, S.O.S., I for one have seldom laughed harder. A laugh is a laugh, and to laugh at (not with) Mamma Mia is irresistible. Brosnan, who is supposed to be American but puts out about one-eighth of the effort necessary to nail the accent, will also be glimpsed loosely pumping his fist in the air while crying “Whoo-whoo-whoo!”

A scene in which the groom’s shirtless beach blanket buddies, who are throwing him a bachelor party, peel him away from his bride in order to force him to join their merry band as they goose-step along the dock, while wearing flippers, with maximal flapping of arms, suggests a re-enactment of the invasion of the Sudetenland conducted by the Village People during a weekend on Fire Island. (Stay through the closing credits for more. I am talking about Brosnan in a royal blue skin-tight chest-baring jumpsuit that Liberace would have described as a bit much.)