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Mamma Mia! (2008)

DVD Cover (Universal Special Edition)
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Mamma Mia!
> Mamma Mia! (2008)
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Genres:
Musical, Musical Comedy, Musical Romance
Director:
Phyllida Lloyd Phyllida Lloyd
Starring:
Amanda Seyfried Amanda Seyfried
Stellan Skarsgård Stellan Skarsgård
Pierce Brosnan Pierce Brosnan
Nancy Baldwin Nancy Baldwin
Colin Firth Colin Firth

6.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Set on an idyllic Greek island, the plot serves as a background for a wealth of ABBA hit songs. Donna, an independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on the island is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited young daughter she's raised alone. But Sophie has secretly invited three of her mother's ex-lovers in the hopes of finding her father. --TMDb
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: July 23, 2008
Imagine jumping into a lake of sugar water and then being doused with piles of pure cane sugar, chocolate, maple syrup and fluffy white clouds. You can have the exact same experience by going to the theatres to see "Mamma Mia!", the fluffiest, sappiest, sweetest film I have seen in years and one of the most insanely peppy musicals to come around in a long time. "Mamma Mia!" is based on the highly successful and still wildly popular stage musical which opened on Broadway in 2001 and has been lighting up the stages ever since. It's based on the music of ABBA, that Swedish band you all loved in the 1970's who crafted delicious pop songs, but didn't know how to speak a word of English and never understood what they were singing. The film version of that musical comes jam packed with Hollywood stars and the same director who tackled the stage version, Phyllida Lloyd, slightly worrisome since "The Producers", a musical disaster that was also directed by the same woman who directed the stage version. Anyhoo, "Mamma Mia!" is not going to be the right type of film for everyone. I cannot imagine a middle aged man going into the theatre to see this film and being able to last longer than fifteen minutes or so. This film is a chick flick if there ever was one, and it also appeals to musical theatre fans. I was not an enormous fan of the stage musical, but I think Meryl Streep is a goddess and will see anything she is in, amazing or terrible. I guess it's a lucky thing for me that "Mamma Mia!" avoided the latter and fell right in the middle.

The film opens with 20-year-old Sophie (Amanda Seyfriend) dropping three letters into a mailbox. These letters are invitations to three different men to attend her wedding. They are all three former lovers of her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), and one of them is her father, though neither she nor Donna knows which one. So, the three men hit the island. There's Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), a world famous adventurer; Sam (Pierce Brosnan), a wealthy executive; and Harry (Colin Firth), a banker with no family who has lost touch with his wild youth. When the men arrive, Donna is thrown for a loop, assuming it's just coincidence that three former lovers show up all at once. Sophie never tells her why she's really brought them there. Also on the island for the wedding are Donna's two best friends and former back-up singers, Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski). As Donna and the men become suspicious of one another, Sophie tries her best to keep her wedding plans to Sky (Dominic Cooper) on track, as well as juggle the potential dads the entire time. The film builds through musical numbers to some emotional truth-telling and a sunny ending that just doesn't happen that much in films these days. And, the location of all these hyjinx is a small island off the coast of Greece, and we all know how wacky and wild those Greeks can be.

Let's start off with the positives. I have a lot of affection for the fact that director Phyllida Lloyd attempted to capture all the pep and jazz of the stage production, without making everything seem to staged or artificial. She basically went out of her way make each musical number as fun and as lighthearted as possible, with the exception of the few numbers that are more subdued. She also packed the cast with actors who know how to have lots of fun with the material. Highlights include the title track, "Mammia Mia!", as well as the hysterical "Dancing Queen" - but the 'knock'em dead' moment comes towards the end of the film when Meryl Streep belts out "The Winner Takes It All", causing me to look around to see if anyone was going to burst into spontaneous applause. And, believe it or not, they did. Just like when Jennifer Hudson sang "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" in "Dreamgirls". Meryl Streep is just phenomenal here. Her voice is simple and affective and her performance is what makes the whole experience worthwhile. It's so nice to see someone in a leading role in a musical who can actually act the role. And, boy, does she ever. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are also just incredible as her two best friends. Any time they are on screen together, it just lights up. Amanda Seyfriend was a wonderful choice for Sophie and she has one of the standout voices in the whole picture. I also had much fondness for the credits of the film, where the three women sing "Dancing Queen" and then incite an encore, "Waterloo".

The weakest aspect of the film is also some of the singing. Pierce Brosnan is not a singer and they do their best to disguise it, but just cannot. His first song is downright laughable, and although he does improve as the film wears on, he's nowhere in the same league as the rest. His charm makes up for some of it, but not all of it. That said, Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth don't have amazing voices either, but they know how to use theirs slightly better. Dominic Cooper has a decent enough voice I suppose - I just didn't enjoy him in the role. It seemed like he was trying too hard to do what was coming natural to everyone else. And I guess I have to be a little bitter that they took my favorite ABBA song and gave it to Pierce Brosnan, "S.O.S.". I also had a problem with some of the transitions between songs. Some of the songs just seemed to burst out of nowhere and I guess I wanted a little more set-up or at least a little more preparation. They disguised it with their very colorful cast or Greek back-up singers and dancers, but I wanted more from that. I also had a problem with some of the choreography, which at times seemed far too simple and ineffective. The group numbers all looked the same, and after the first one, it got a little redundant.

On the whole, I enjoyed "Mamma Mia!" very much. It's no "Hairspray" and it's no "Chicago", but it knows what it is and it stays true to it. Meryl Streep carries the entire film on her shoulders, just as I knew she would. She's reason enough to see this film. It also makes me excited to see what musicals she might do in the future, since she has expressed interest in doing more. "Mamma Mia!" is not going to appeal to everyone, and in fact, will probably not appeal to most. But, if you are a fan of the stage musical, I firmly believe you'll be a fan of the film. And, if you're a fan of ABBA, there's not much room for you to be disappointed. "Mamma Mia!" is the sappiest and sweetest picture of the year and it ends with a nice little bow wrapped around it. Considering it opened against "The Dark Knight", what an accomplishment to see how much it grossed. If you don't know the music of ABBA, maybe buy one of their greatest hits albums and then go see the film after you have listened to it. I think you might appreciate the band and the film a little more than way.

8/10.
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