Star-studded Abba musical is well worth taking a chance on

PUBLISHED: 17:31 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:12 07 September 2010

MAMMA MIA! (PG) Director Phyllida Lloyd. Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried. 97 mins Three star rating If the gangs of ladies that smuggled in bottles of wine in, cried three times and

MAMMA MIA! (PG)

Director Phyllida Lloyd.

Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried. 97 mins

Three star rating

If the gangs of ladies that smuggled in bottles of wine in, cried three times and made Sex and The City a massive hit are feeling a little lost as it retreats from the capital's screens, they could do worse then Take A Chance on this ABBA musical for a repeat of that experience, writes MICHAEL JOYCE.

When it opened in the West End ten years ago, Mamma Mia started the vogue for musicals based on the output of a band. Much of the fun is the cheek with which those familiar numbers have been shoehorned into the tale of a young girl (Seyfreid) living on a Greek Island who has invited her three possible fathers (Brosnan, Skarsgarrd and Firth) to her wedding, much to the consternation of her mother (Streep.)

Objectively it is rubbish - badly shot, repetitive choreographed, cheap obvious gags etc. But this is ABBA, a band whose natural habitat is Naffness so a film style that is a cross between Judith Chalmers-era Wish You Were Here and an episode of Summertime Special (Saturday night BBC variety, in a tent, presented by Radio One DJs) is probably ideal.

There are limits though. The jaw dropped look of absolute shock on Skarsgard's face when Julie Walters makes her amorous advance to Take A Chance On Me was one I was replicating at regular intervals, shocked and bemused at what I was seeing. The most horrifying moment was the scene where Pierce Brosnan has to stand around like a goose-berry and react to Streep singing Winner Takes It All at him. He shuffles about looking as aw-kward as Prince Charles - it's no way for a former Bond to behave.

We call it an ABBA musical but really it's a BB musical; Benny and Bjorn have taken firm custody of their legacy while Agnetha and Ani-Frid have retired from the limelight. In their absence you've got to wonder why they didn't get in some people who could actually sing. Streep can hold a tune but most of the stars are strictly Paint Your Wagon standard. Can't really see why I should listen to Streep, Brosnan et al brave stabs instead of AA's masterly originals.

It's nice though to have a film where age and experience so thoroughly eclipses youth - the young couple get very short shift - but at times it feels like you've been ambushed by a karaoke hen party - mother and divorcees division. It has that forced, slightly desperate cheeriness; it's almost aggressively unpretentious.

Overall I think they just about get away with it but if anyone tries to film We Will Rock You, do anything in your power to stop them.

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