About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • Review: “Mamma Mia”

    By Kyle | July 19, 2008


    Kyle Smith review of “MAMMA MIA”

    2 stars out of 4
    The big-screen version of the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia” is a startling leap forward in gay technology that must be seen to be disbelieved. This movie could not be lighter in its loafers if its central number were retitled “Prancing Queen.”

    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 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. It is possibly the gayest moment ever recorded in the whole of human history, and yet things get ever so much gayer. (Stay through the closing credits if you doubt my word. I am talking about Brosnan in a royal blue skin-tight chest-baring jumpsuit that Liberace would have described as a bit much.)

    Firth keeps saying things like, “I’d quite like to freshen up” and “Might I be shown my room now?” and “There wouldn’t by any chance happen to be a trouser press down here?” No doubt you are correcting me in your mind: “Not gay. Just British.” I’ve forgotten so please remind me: what exactly is the difference? You’ve heard what the Blighty boys get up to at public school, haven’t you?

    There are times when “Mamma Mia” makes “Hairspray” seem like “Magnum Force” by comparison. I have no reason to suspect Meryl Streep is a gay man, but did RuPaul write her dialogue? Wielding a power drill, she is asked if she’s “getting any,” at which point she powers up the drill and says, “Down boy!” She also worries about “A crack in my courtyard,” but do we really want to hear about her crack?

    Much of the talk is far worse. Did I really hear the words, “I won’t be muzzled by an ejaculation?” And, “Harry’s talked Tanya into water sports!” and “He’s all mouth and no trousers” and “Get the meat out of the heat”? Still, I could praise all of this and more if only the movie had provided me with a warning to avert my eyes before it provided a shuddery glimpse of Skarsgaard’s butt cheeks.

    The Streep character and her battle-ax friends (Julie Walters, Christine Baranski) sing into vacuum cleaners and hair dryers in “Dancing Queen,” then strut around in pyramid formation. Everyone and everything is “fabulous” or “gorgeous” or “a little minx,” and at a, well, climactic moment a geyser busts out of the floor and bare-chested boys revel in it, in slow motion. Walters is definitely onto something when she says, “It’s very Greek.” Really, what kind of movie borrows its plot from the 80s miniseries “Lace”? All that is missing is a scene in which the bride asks, “Which one of you three bitches is my father?”

    Topics: Broadway, Europe, Movies, Music | 11 Comments »

    I Win Headline Derby

    By Kyle | July 17, 2008

    Though my brilliant colleague Billy Heller writes most of the headlines in the Post’s Pulse section, including yesterday’s “Grinner Takes All,” I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I wrote the hed for tomorrow’s review of the supergay new musical “Mamma Mia”: ABBA-DABBA-DOO!

    Seriously, this movie is a quantum leap forward in gay technology. It is to previous incarnations of gay what the Apollo space program was to the bicycle. Lou Lumenick predicts it will do $30 million this weekend, though there is a slightly more interesting movie opening against it. Is this a much gayer country than I previously suspected? Is “Mamma Mia” the gay Batman? The Flighty Knight?

    Topics: Broadway, Movies, Music, Newspapers | 7 Comments »

    “Be Kind Rewind” and “Sunday in the Park with George”

    By Kyle | February 17, 2008

    In my Sunday column I muse about the creative instinct as it relates to a movie and a musical that open this week. Should you suffer for your art–or make everybody else suffer for it?

    Topics: Broadway, Movies, Theater | No Comments »

    Review: “In Bruges”

    By Kyle | February 17, 2008


    Kyle Smith review of “In Bruges”


    101 minutes/Rated R (graphic violence, profanity, drug use)

    A sort of “Let’s Go: Assassinate Someone,” “In Bruges” has a distinctive voice but doesn’t say enough.

    Two London-based hit men (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson) have been sent to the Belgian town of canals and medieval belfries for two weeks for reasons that haven’t been made clear to them, or us. But you know they’re not going to spend the whole time sightseeing and drinking what Farrell’s character Ray calls “gay beer.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Broadway, Movies | No Comments »

    “Sweeney Todd”: Fun for the Whole Family!

    By Kyle | January 17, 2008

    SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this posting if you haven’t seen “Sweeney Todd.”

    The new ad campaign for Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd,” which is doing less than great at the box office after a brooding ad campaign apparently scared off the 12-30 year old females who are Johnny Depp’s fan base, now all but says the movie is a bubbly comedy full of dancing and parties. It’s “Hairspray” gone cockney! Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Broadway, Movies | No Comments »

    Review: “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

    By Kyle | December 18, 2007



    Kyle Smith review of “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”

    117 minutes/R (extreme graphic violence)

    Tell me, is it good? Sir, it’s too good, at least.

    Director Tim Burton’s fierce and fast adaptation of the greatest stage musical of the last 30 years, Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is mighty entertainment that makes you feel sorry for the saps next door in the multiplex, the ones being served up weak sauce like “Grace Is Gone.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Broadway, Movies, Music | 3 Comments »

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