Mamma Mia! (2008)

This big-screen adaptation of the long-running stage hit sees assorted major stars breaking into Abba songs at every opportunity – and somehow getting away with it.

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“This is the closest you’re ever going to get to see A-list actors doing drunken karaoke. If they’d done this in a bar it would have been all over the papers the next day.”
Mark Kermode, Radio Five Live, 2008

It sounds ludicrous on paper: a romantic comedy in which every plot development is heralded by the live performance of a thematically-linked Abba song. But it was an enormous stage success before becoming a record-shattering film (Phyllida Lloyd directed both), and it’s easy to see why. Once disbelief has been suspended, it’s ultimately quite irresistible, even though (or indeed because) the actors’ vocal technique is so varied. Pierce Brosnan in particular was wise not to give up the day job, but he’s a terrific sport here as one of three possible fathers – alongside Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård – of 20-year-old Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Without warning her mother (Meryl Streep), Sophie invites all three to her sun-kissed Greek island wedding, keeping them under wraps until the most opportune moment – but the need to splice Abba lyrics into every narrative twist ensures that things don’t go quite according to plan...

Abba’s songs also infuse Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994), while Across the Universe (2007) attempted something similar with The Beatles’ back catalogue.

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