For the Review
I felt like Scrooge while watching “Mamma Mia!” It’s one of those films that looks like it was so much fun to make, and I’m sure that everyone involved with the project was confident that their enjoyment would float into the audience as well. Instead, I felt like the displeased kid at the party who everyone else tries to make smile. There’s so much fun and laughter on that beautiful Grecian island that “Mamma Mia!” is indeed a party; I just wasn’t invited.
Unlike the beautiful blue water around it, “Mamma Mia!” doesn’t flow well. The pace never slows down to give time to develop any characters or plotlines. The plot is the same as the stage show: girl plans wedding, girl invites her three possible dads to her wedding, girl’s mom freaks out and hilarity and singing ensues.
As a stage show, the story is already a bare-bones vehicle to get from one great ABBA song to another, but unlike the plot in the stage show, the film completely breaks down. The fact that the story is so dismembered makes the moral seem stupid.
Meryl Streep sings well and tries to act her way out of a limiting script while looking like she is having a great time. Amanda Seyfried is probably the most surprising cast member. She makes the annoyingly fickle Sophie a lot less annoyingly fickle. The men in the film, who are merely pillars that the women dance around, don’t shine like their female counterparts. This is particularly true for Pierce Brosnan whose attempt at singing is the basis for many of the film’s not-supposed-to-be-funny-but-I-laughed-anyway sequences.
It’s the songs that are truly the stars, and most of them are good and fun to watch performed. Phyllida Lloyd, who directed the stage version, infuses a lot of great energy and visuals into the musical sequences, which look amazing on location in Greece. While Lloyd does well with these scenes, it was probably a mistake to let her direct the film. The show, which was made for the millions and millions of people who loved ABBA, is a great piece of musical theater that is a good two-and-a half-hours of mindless fun. The film is a watered-down version. Sloppy direction and writing in the dialogue-centered scenes makes the film vapid and incomplete. While I’m sure Lloyd had an amazing time directing this movie, but she forgets that how the party looks might not be as important as how the party came to be, thus leaving cinema-goers still waiting for their invitations. Grade: C