If Meryl tells me I can dance, it must be true.
There's something uniquely magical about watching the woman who made Sophie's Choice (pun intended) dance around buoyantly while singing ABBA. Despite Mamma Mia's hit-and-miss, kamikaze comedy, whenever Streep starts singing, the film takes flight. This is not just because her voice is so gorgeous and expressive (though it is); it's also because we as viewers (or I at least) naturally tend to project all of Streep's previous perfs and career moves onto each new perfomance. I mean that in the best way. I think that is part of her legend. Just knowing that the same actress can play Joanna Kramer, Sophie Zawistowski, Karen Silkwood, Suzanne Vale, Miranda Priestly, etc. and then bust out with the sheer bubble-gum bliss of ABBA, and then seeing her do it... well, it does something very special for me. Something about it is very moving. It actually gives this material resonance. And that's pretty awesome.
As for the film as a whole... it's basically just another in the ever-lengthening list of Streep's middlingly reviewed mainstream comedies - She-Devil, Death Becomes Her, and Prime are other examples - all of which are far more fun than they would have been without her divine presence (though ftr, I think Death Becomes Her is much better than it gets credit for). This one, thankfully, has music. And super-fun music, at that. But the mixed reviews, and it's general dismissal as a mere trifle, are mostly deserved. I can't say I disagree with either assessment. But it's still probably the most pure fun I've had at the movies this year (despite being technically getting my worst grade... hee). In terms of quality, it doesn't hit the same highs as Devil Wears Prada (the exception to the rule in the reception of Streep's comedies), but it doesn't stoop to the lows of She-Devil either. One never gets the impression that Streep is slumming. On the contrary, she's having the time of her life. As is the whole joyous troupe around her. With the possible exception of poor Pierce Brosnan. Sigh.
Just a little anecdote now... my Mamma Mia experience was definitely made more memorable by external factors. I'd planned to go with my mom and sister today to the matinée showing. Unfortunately, once we got there, it was sold out, which really surprised me. But I guess it's the kind of thing most people seeing it would wanna see on a Sunday afternoon. Anyway, I convinced my mom and sister to see WALL*E instead. Since it's actually, you know, better. But mom was pretty set on Mamma Mia, so what did she do? She spontaneously decided we should sneak into the Mamma Mia screening and sit in the very front row (which they apparently don't count when calling a screening as "sold out"). So that was pretty awesome. My mom is ridiculous. And we got to see every wrinkle! Hee.
Meryl Streep singing ABBA: A
Dominic Cooper singing shirtless: A
The soundtrack in general: A-
The film as a whole: B-/C+