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Went to see Mamma Mia without particularly high expectations. Not being
a big connoisseur (or even fan) of musicals, I didn't really know what
to expect. Though I adore ABBA, I never bothered to watch the stage
production of Mamma Mia. But having a cinema membership, I didn't have
much to lose (no money, at least), so I went for it. And boy, am I glad
that I did! I can safely say that I enjoyed every second of it. And I'm
not even ashamed to admit it!
Give Meryl Streep another Oscar and get it over with already. If she could get a nod for the Devil Wears Prada, she definitely deserves one for this. She really let her hair down on this one. Mrs. Streep can obviously not pass for a trained singer, but somehow, it just doesn't seem to matter. It just really worked in the movie (unlike -say- Helena Bonham Carter's singing in Sweeney Todd). When I heard Meryl's rendition of "The winner takes it all" in advance, it lowered my expectations considerably, but in its context, it totally made sense.
Most of all though, this movie was just sheer fun. People were clapping, laughing...Rarely have I seen an audience as enthusiastic. The crowd especially responded well to Meryl and her two cronies (arguably the strongholds of the movie). Also, because I had never seen the musical before, I was amazed (and amused) at the inventive ways in which they managed to incorporate so many ABBA-songs. Equally brilliant was the way the extras (usually some Greek old women) were deployed throughout the movie...And then of course the setting (beautiful Greece) was mesmerizing...
Basically, Mamma Mia is a superb musical that doesn't take itself too seriously. If you're just a little bit crazy and want to have a good laugh, if you love ABBA, want to see Meryl Streep like you've never seen her before or if you simply have a secret crush on Colin Firth and/or Pierce Brosnan (his singing was nothing short of hilarious), you will LOVE this movie. Best summer flick so far. Warmly recommended.
I didn't know what to expect when going into watch "Mamma Mia", was
this gonna be another Hairspray or Across the Universe or Rent? This
was a lighthearted, quite enjoyable movie of its own style, Meryl Strep
blew the entire audience away with her comedic persona in this movie.
After seeing her in Devil Wears Prada, you are shaken momentarily after
seeing her climb on top a roof singing "Mamma Mia!" and swoon and the
dance teenage giddy girl dance. You'll love this movie for trio of
older woman characters, they were all so funny. Mr. James Bond's
character and singing was such a hilarious delight for the audience, we
couldn't believe this was the man who played a top secret spy agent.
With just the right amount of eccentricity, heart, and *get out of those movie chairs and DANCE IN THE AISLE* ABBA music, you'll never want this adventure to end.
I saw this film at the screening on Sunday and was not too sure of what
to expect from it. I hadn't seen the west end show so was not really
aware of the story line but that really did not matter.
As soon as the first song started I was loving it! The actors may not be that great at singing but does it matter?! They are actors after all and this is not the west end! The actors play the parts really well and make fun of themselves at the same time. The story line is fun and has laughs for all ages. Julie Waters is her fantastic self in it and Meryl Streep plays the mother really well. The dance scenes are great and well put together. Loads of people in the cinema were singing and dancing in their seats so just enjoy it and have some laughs for a few hours.
If you take it for what it is, a fun laugh out loud film with good actors and fantastic songs, then you will enjoy this film so much.I suspect that this will be a summer box office hit! Enjoy it and have fun - you may need your tissues though as I'm pretty sure some of you will be crying with laughter at some of the scenes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like, but don't love, musicals - my DVD shelves contain a selection,
but the stuff there is pretty obvious: Singing in the Rain, King and I,
Wizard of Oz, Moulin Rouge etc.. I'm not a Meryl Streep fan - I admire
her craft, but mostly haven't liked the parts she's played. Conversely,
I've always liked Abba's music. So that's my starting point when
considering this movie which I have just been to see with my 80-year
The story is a piece of fluff. Sophie, who lives with her mother in a dilapidated hotel on an idyllic Greek island, wants nothing more than for her father to be at her forthcoming wedding. The trouble is her father could be any one of three men with whom her mother dot dot dotted twenty years ago. So Sophie invites all three of them to her wedding and, as expected, complications ensue. The story, such as it is, is quite strong enough to enable the songs to be hooked onto it. And the songs, with one or two obvious exceptions (Money Money Money cued by the rundown state of the hotel) are very cannily worked into the story so that each one is relevant.
The film looks great. The Greek locations overflow with sun and primary colours. The script is mostly fairly deft, and there is a sprinkling of decent laughs.
But the film ultimately stands or falls - and it stands, believe me! - on two things: the music, and the cast.
The music - sitting through this film brings home the strength of the Abba catalogue. There isn't a weak song among the two dozen which feature on the soundtrack. The music, produced by composer Benny Andersson, mostly wisely sticks very close to the original arrangements, and the occasional divergences (Greek bouzouki on I Had A Dream, for instance) are spot on.
And the cast - well, they deliver. Brosnan's singing has been criticised, but he is always in tune, and he delivers a satisfactory vocal performance rather than dazzling with a polished singing technique (which he hasn't got). The four leading women are all wonderful. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski as Meryl Streep's two oldest friends are both very funny (Julie Walters has a particularly funny little bit of business in a rubber boat), and Baranski has her own knockout number. Amanda Seyfried as Sophie is simply delightful - she sings well, carries the plot and all the emotion which goes with it, and is very easy on the eye. And Meryl Streep is a revelation.
This film is an utterly joyous experience. My old Mum and I came out of the cinema buoyed up by the experience of watching it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who enjoys musicals and/or Abba's music.
Mamma Mia! Does the mention of anything Abba-ish send you cringing to a
corner? Or are you already joining in and dancing on the tabletops?
Maybe another few drinks . . .
In short, if you are not allergic to Abba, book your tickets now. If you are, why would you be reading this? At a pinch, it is worth seeing for Meryl Streep alone, who not only throws herself headlong into every refrain with unashamed gusto, but adds a touch of class and nuance to what otherwise could be a one-dimensional adaptation. Streep vacillates engagingly between playing herself and not taking herself too seriously. Pierce Brosnan just about keeps up, and manages more expressions than he ever did as James Bond. Colin Firth and Julie Waters trail behind somewhat. Yet Mama Mia! is a roller coaster of emotion, careering colourfully from the blue waters of the Adriatic, bursting 'like Aphrodite's Fountain' into the lives of Donna (Meryl) , her lovers and friends, and her soon-to-be-wed daughter. It is the party spirit that says kick your shoes off and sing silly cheesy songs. Altogether now.
And yes there's a story. Donna's daughter Sophie is getting married. To the buff-looking Sky. Only where's her dad? She's never met him. A sneak-peek at Mom's diary shows Mom had three lovers before Sophie was born and Sophie secretly invites all of them. This is a film of threesomes. Three past lovers (Sam, Bill and Harry). Three close friends (Donna and two best pals). And, not to be outdone, Sophie meets up with two other young girls at the start of the film.
The breakneck pace still allows for brilliantly put together shots. Like Streep doing a 'Titanic' with drapes blowing in the wind. Or a pier-load of young hunky stag night crew doing a dance in trunks and deep-dive flippers. Moonlit boats and beaches to "I Have a Dream." Filmed on location, the views won't disappoint. And like a favourite song whose ending we know, the drama is in the details and execution.
As with many adapted-from-stage musicals, two young leads are played by talented singers, and the older parts by serious actors can sing well enough. Streep manages extremely well. Her performance is so professional and assured it leaves others standing. Fortunately, it is perhaps easy to paper over any cracks in musical comedy. Sweeney Todd relied heavily on Depp's charisma and stunning cinematography. Across the Universe, too heavily on the songs. Mamma Mia!, on the other hand, simply tailors everything to its joyous headlong rush. The songs fit naturally to the action. Streep even manages to sing them with her tongue firmly in cheek. She confesses to having been a "stupid reckless little slut" but then says she "grew up". (To which her pals chime in, "Well grow back down again!") The film is not without faults. There is a notable lack of chemistry between the people that throw themselves rapturously against each others' faces. Even Streep looks less than convincing in a brief lips-mash. And the men are a bit croaky in the singing department (Hugh Grant might even have been a preferable casting choice). And some of the time-line is wobbly. For instance, strange as it may seem, music from more than twenty years ago does not all come from the same era. So reminiscing about flower power (early sixties) in the same breath as a Johnny Rotten t-shirt (Sex Pistols, mid-late seventies) is either anachronistic or wishful thinking.
Sadly, I am of a generation that can remember Abba-mania. The records would shoot to number one. Yet even then few people would admit to buying them. I used to manage a night club, and Abba was great music to ask a girl up to dance. My entire chat-up repertoire at that time consisted of, "Would you like to dance?" and "Do you want to come back for a coffee?" But girls would be so happy dancing to Mamma Mia they'd say yes anyway. I'd fall in love with a new girl each week. Ah, those were the days! Now there's a new generation of Abba fans who have no need to 'come out of a closet'. Abba is retro-chique. Even Madonna segued an Abba riff into one of her songs. From karaoke to hen nights. From '70s' nights to gay dance-floors. Dress up. Camp it up. Sing it up. Get sassy and cheesy. Or, if you're old enough to remember, fly back in time to wonderful memories.
Mamma Mia!, whatever detractors might say, has been one of the most successful stage shows of recent times. Supported by the same director and original band members, the movie may well reach the similar fan bases. Or just the party spirit in all of us.
TheFanCarpet.Com - Initial Reaction
Take a Chance... It's Surprisingly Brilliant!
While the majority of the film is brilliantly silly, Meryl Streep gives us an emotional show stopping performance of 'The Winner Takes It All. Who wouldn't pay to see James Bond singing 'SOS'? Pierce Brosnan was humorously over-emoting everything but it worked perfectly within the context of the film.
Donna and Sophie (Mother and Daughter) are perfectly cast with an uncanny similarity in both looks and personality. Julie Walters almost steals the whole show, sorry I mean film, with her performance of 'Take a Chance on Me'.
It does take you about 20 minutes to settle down from the excitement of this outstanding cast singing their hearts out. I'm not the biggest 'movical' fan but if go in with an open mind and a bunch of people and you'll leave uplifted and pleasantly surprised.
I did enjoy this romp in the Greek Islands and was surprised at how well Meryl Streep sang. It's light, full of froth and bubble and perhaps has some aspects of Grease and Bollywood in it. The reason the music works I feel is that they haven't really messed with the arrangements of the songs keeping them generally faithful to the Abba originals. But Pierce Brosnan's vocal efforts were abysmal, almost laughable. Perhaps it was meant to be a send up of the original songs all the way through but he really did manage to mangle the vocals in my opinion. If you have seen the musical on stage you will know what to expect and there are some funny moments in the film and the Greek islands are as always a superb backdrop for the action.
After watching the Mamma Mia! musical in London, I was thrilled to hear about the movie coming out. Meryl Streep in a musical seemed like just one reason to watch it. Well, I must say.. It was a lot more than what I expected! The beautiful scenery, the cast and the songs. A good mix of tears, laughter and love that will make you feel like you're a part of the gang and enjoy every bit of this movie. Not one of the cast members let me down. It really is a feel-good movie and it made me want to stand up and sing a long. The ABBA songs are made for dancing and in this movie it reassured me. The singing and the dancing put smiles on people's faces, and it makes you feel happy and as if all worries are gone. I certainly smiled during the entire movie. The cast members were all wonderful singers and especially the two lead actresses Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried impressed me. A well-made movie that is worth watching more than once!
I have a confession to make that could land me in serious trouble here.
I love this movie with a love bordering on the unnatural. Of course, I
hear you saying, that can only mean one thing; you're a gay man of a
certain age and if you haven't come out of the closet already. you're
coming out now, and wearing sequins at the same time. No straight man,
I hear you say, could love this movie with this kind of unbridled
passion, so if you have aspirations to being a 100% red-blooded
heterosexual male, (is there such a thing?), then keep any fondness for
"Mama Mia" to yourself; you will automatically be suspect. Of course, I
could just as easily be a teenage girl, (it's a chick flick, after
all), and be in equally serious difficulties with my peers, for loving
"Mama Mia" would then mean I had already turned into my mother, for
this is a chick flick for the older chick and no mistake.
I had avoided it on stage. I have never been a fan of 'juke-box' musicals where a plot is conjured up around a set of songs by a well-known group or artist. And my undiminished love of Abba, (there, I'm out of the closet - happy now?), made me shy away from, rather than run to, a show where their greatest hits were sung, karaoke-style, by others. But something drew me to the movie. Perhaps it was Meryl, (if Meryl liked it, it can't be that bad, I kept saying to myself). Perhaps it was the locations, (it all takes place on a very travelogue Greek isle). Perhaps, ultimately, it was the songs, (who isn't a dancing queen, after all). Nevertheless, going to "Mama Mia", the movie, was still like dipping my toe in the water before deciding if I wanted to do a full length of the pool. The last thing I expected was to fall head over heels, to turn into a blubbering mess, to turn into the oldest dancing queen on the block and into my mother all at the same time. "Mama Mia" is a guilty pleasure, (no self-respecting cineaste should ever admit to even liking this movie, never mind loving it), but as guilty pleasures go, this is the best junk meal you are ever likely to have.
It's director, Phyllida Law, did it on the stage so at least she is familiar with the material, but she is new to movies and after the mess Susan Stroman made of "The Producers" I didn't really expect anything, but while "The Producers" was stagey,(and not in an appealing way), "Mama Mia" is genuinely cinematic. Lloyd's idea of film-making may be to let her camera roam all over the place, (she seems to have an MTV mentality), but she also knows how to build a production number. This is a fully-fledged musical of the old school. And now I am beginning to see the light. It's OK, guys, you can admit to liking "Mama Mia" without worrying too much about revealing your sexuality. Straight men are allowed to like musicals, too, aren't they? Then, of course, there are those songs, the ones we grew up loving. I read somewhere that Abba didn't write great songs because no-one covered them, unlike, say, Lennon and McCartney; that what made Abba's songs 'great' was the Abba sound. There may be something in that; the 'Abba sound' produced some of the greatest pop ever. Arguably, the songs that Abba, (and by Abba, I mean Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson), wrote and recorded are the greatest pop songs we've been given. So how do they work coming from the mouths of people who, effectively, aren't singers? (Ok, Meryl, we all know you can sing and act and probably split the atom at the same time, and the girl who plays her daughter, Amanda Seyfried, sounds very pleasant to the ear). Well, the answer is bloody marvelous. Most of these songs sound as if they were written for the film and not the other way round; in other words, they fit the plot in the way that songs in a good musical should and they are good enough to stand on their own.
These are Broadway show-tunes and they aren't wholly reliant on 'the Abba sound'. So what if Julie Walters and Stellan Skarsgard croak their way through 'Take a Chance on Me'; by the time they get around to it I would have taken a chance on anyone. So Pierce Brosnan can't sing? Neither can Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen and yet we love them to bits. (Actually, Brosnan can just about manage to hold a tune and he makes a fairer fist of it than Lee Marvin or Clint Eastwood did in "Paint your Wagon"). And Meryl, of course, is wonderful. Our greatest living actress is having fun here. This is her first fully-fledged musical: I just wondered what took her so long, (her rendition of 'The Winner takes it All' is one of the great solo performances in any musical).
But does any of this justify my over-whelming and totally inexplicable passion? Probably not, which is why it is inexplicable. It's not a 'great' movie, (although it could just be a 'great' musical); it often feels like a bunch of friends' best ever holiday video where they keep bursting into song with fully orchestrated backing, and it gives a totally new meaning to the term 'Greek Chorous'. So, obviously I am a middle-aged gay man with a full wardrobe of seventies gear. (I certainly haven't turned into my mother!). I mean, what other explanation can there be? Oh, I've just thought of one. It is a great movie musical and it's a terrific way to spend an evening. So I can now safely go back into my closet if I can find room among all the sequins and seventies gear.
Armed with irresistible hooks, soaring melodies and near-celestial
vocal stylings, the Swedish pop group ABBA churned out a body of
insanely catchy and superbly crafted tunes - "Waterloo," "SOS,"
"Fernando," "Dancing Queen," "The Winner Takes it All," etc. - that
made it the world's top-selling musical act of the 1970's and early
1980's. Several decades later, ABBA's music became the basis for a hit
stage musical entitled "Mamma Mia!" in which a simple narrative was
deftly woven around many of the quartet's songs. Now, the
much-ballyhooed movie version of "Mamma Mia!," written by Catherine
Johnson and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, has arrived on the scene.
The story takes place on a beautiful Greek island where the never-married Donna (Meryl Streep) single-handedly runs a modest hotel for an ever-thinning crowd of tourists. Her daughter, Sophie (the charming Amanda Seyfried), has never known who her real father is, mainly because Donna herself doesn't even know. With the help of her mother's diary from twenty years ago, Sophie narrows the candidates down to three (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard), then secretly invites them to her wedding in the hope that she will be able to figure out which of them is her real father in time to have him accompany her down the aisle.
On stage, "Mamma Mia!" succeeded primarily because it was able to keep its wafer-thin storyline modest in scale and life-sized in scope. But blown up to the magnified proportions of the big screen, the material becomes a compendium of overacting (Julie Walters being the most egregious culprit in that regard), ham-handed literalization, forced spontaneity, and production values that look both gaudy and chintzy at one and the same time. Moreover, the direction is clunky, the choreography abysmal (especially compared to what we were treated to in "Hairspray" just a year ago), the photography either over or underexposed (depending on whether the scene is set at night or during the day), and the singing not unlike what one might hear emanating from the local pub on an average karaoke-night.
In fact, there has always been an inherent problem built into "Mamma Mia!," which is that much of ABBA's charm derives from the crystalline voices of its lead singers, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog. Take away those harmonies and at least a certain percentage of that charm is lost. Now the movie version of "Mamma Mia!" comes along and simply compounds the problem by hiring big-name actors rather than trained singers to somehow interpret the pieces for us. Indeed, this must be the only musical in movie history made up almost entirely of people who can't sing (at least in the old days they used to dub the voices in if they had to). One has to give Streep brownie points for at least trying to belt out the tunes, but her rendition of "The Winner Takes it All," which was the rafter-rattling showstopper in the stage version, falls flat due not only to her own inadequacies as a vocalist but to the awkward staging and foolish hand gestures she uses to accompany her singing (almost as if she were trying to act out the lyrics as she's singing them). Actually, I've never understood why anyone would buy either the original cast recording or the soundtrack to "Mamma Mia!" anyway when the real thing is readily available and clearly far superior to any imitation.
All that being said, I am still inclined to at least half-heartedly recommend that people go to see this movie for a number of reasons. First, because the music itself (written by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus) is fun, infectious and finally irresistible, no matter how much the singers may be unintentionally stomping all over it; second, because even though their singing leaves much to be desired, Streep, Bosnan and Seyfried somehow make us care about the characters and the silly little predicament they're caught up in; and third, because there are a number of scenes that actually work quite nicely, the best being when Donna sings the sweet mother's lament "Slipping Through My Fingers" (a song clearly within Streep's limited vocal range) to her soon-to-be-wed daughter. Streep and Seyfried are both very moving and poignant not only in that particular scene but in all of the scenes in which they appear together.
For the half dozen or so audience members who aren't already familiar with the ABBA oeuvre, one can only hope that they will use "Mamma Mia!" as a springboard to sampling the real deal.
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