I freely admit I’m not the target audience for this movie. Being without a vagina, an attraction to men, and/or a fondness for the music of ABBA, I went into Mamma Mia! The Movie pretty much figuring that I’d have some problems with it. I’m not a really big fan of musicals, actually; all things being equal, Jason “I Love Showtunes” Hare would be the Popdose staffer reviewing this for you.
Still, I’m capable of objectively assessing a piece of entertainment, even if it isn’t meant for me, and even if I don’t care for ABBA’s music, I am a fan of the lovely Amanda Seyfried, whose work as the sane daughter on Big Love I’ve long appreciated. How bad could Mamma Mia! be?
I will tell you.
I finished watching this movie almost 24 hours ago, and I’m still sort of awestruck by it, because Mamma Mia! is both the most painful and most fun movie I’ve seen in a very long time. The acting is so over the top that it reeks of ham — but the actors’ giddiness is all part of an undeniably infectuous sense of fun. The musical numbers are shoehorned into something that vaguely resembles a plot, from a distance, if you squint — but you’ll still be humming them after the movie’s over. Every single moment of Mamma Mia! is absolutely ludicrous…but it also contains some of the most beautifully filmed sequences I’ve seen in a very long time.
In short, Mamma Mia! is a great viewing option if you’re drunk, or in a bad mood, but if you’re looking for a movie that makes a lick of sense — even in the context of musicals, which frequently require the viewer to turn off large chunks of his or her analytic mind — it will most likely annoy you to the point of distraction, especially if you’re prone to difficulty with things like a chorus line of scuba-flippered men, or plot points that suddenly appear or vanish, or the sight of Colin Firth in a slow-motion topless dance.
And even if you’re drunk, it must be said that Pierce Brosnan’s singing voice is distractingly terrible, and aside from his considerable name value, he has no business being here, which sort of goes to the heart of my main problem with the movie, which is that it’s a cynical cash grab disguised as an affably silly free-for-all. I think I might have enjoyed Mamma Mia! more if it were an original idea — knowing that it was only made because the Broadway musical made billions, and the musical was only made because the albums made billions, makes it sort of difficult to swallow all the silliness. I couldn’t help feeling like I was seeing all this manic energy because director Phyllida Lloyd felt like that’s what the audience was expecting, not because everyone involved with the project was so gosh-darned happy to be there.
Or maybe they were. I don’t know; I can’t think about it anymore, because the sooner I forget about Mamma Mia!, the sooner I’ll forget about the sight of Christine Baranski using a hairbrush (at least I think it was a hairbrush — please, God, let it have been a hairbrush) as a phallus during a musical number.
Did I hate Mamma Mia!? No, but I didn’t really like it, either. To enjoy a movie like this, I think you need to allow yourself to be swept away in the fizzy, soft-focused wonder of it all, and I never reached that happy place. It certainly isn’t a terrible film, and my faith in Amanda Seyfried was justified — she’s suitably hot, and might be the only natural singer in the entire cast — but it has a fairly narrow (albeit obviously cash-rich) appeal.
This two-disc special edition boasts a slew of extras for the Mamma Mia! fanatic, including a number of making-of featurettes that look at what went into the production of the film, the staging of the “Lay All Your Love on Me” number, the location shoot in Greece, and the, um, vocal odyssey taken by some of the performers. It also includes a music video, deleted scenes and outtakes, and the increasingly popular option to grab a digital copy to put on your hard drive/iPod/whatever for portable viewing. All in all, not a bad bit of value for your $23, and treatment befitting one of the most successful films of the year.