Like many people - billions, it seems - I've always had a soft spot for the songs of the Swedish group ABBA, even though they're sort of like Supremes numbers if the composer and lyricist were lobotomized and the singers learned English phonetically.
They're hits because it takes too much effort to get them out of your head!
But hearing ABBA onscreen in a film directed by someone who doesn't know how to direct a film, sung by non-singers and danced by non-dancers, and featuring Meryl Streep trying to look as if she's just having the best time, is like being trapped in a sensory deprivation tank … except the radio is blasting and you can't-make-it-stop.
The movie is set in what travel guides call a "sun-drenched" Greek island, where Streep is a single mom with a golden halo and does so much fake laughing she must have had hits of nitrous oxide between takes.
Golden girl Amanda Seyfried plays her 20-year-old daughter, who's about to get married and wants to know which of the three men her mom had sex with the summer before she was born is her dad. They are Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgaard and Pierce Brosnan, whose voice in song is the closest a human has come to a water buffalo.
None of those ABBA hits have anything to do with the plot: They're generic, shoehorned in, and when the characters sing they don't reveal more of themselves. They become more simple-minded.
Which shouldn't matter, right? It didn't on stage, where you could surrender to the singing and dancing (except the dancing here is jaw-droppingly lame; it's all skipping along cliff paths waving arms).
Amanda Seyfried is a radiant object and can sing. And Streep gives herself to the songs. I saw her do stage musicals in her twenties; she has a good voice and knows how to put it over.
But numbers as terrible as "The Winner Takes It All" require a certain lack of wit that this great actress, try as she might, can't muster.
See "Mamma Mia!" if you're prepared to work very hard to achieve a state of anti-enlightenment.