Since I’ve been out of movie theaters for a few weeks, here’s a review from a musical-loving female who will remain anonymous. -JO
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If you still haven’t seen MAMMA MIA! run, do not walk, as far as you can away from any theater showing it. Please, go see a comic book movie, or an animated movie about alien monkeys. I just saw it, and I wish I hadn’t. The thing is they got me in the seats using two simple bits of trickery: a great cast and ABBA. I love Abba and I love (most of) the actors in this movie, so with what the movie had, it’d be pretty hard to go wrong, but love the movie I DID NOT. It’s like they were TRYING to make it bad…
I’ll start with the more vague and personal reasons I might have been turned off by it: it was made for exactly two groups of people, and they will enjoy it immensely– teenage girls and women over 50. Trust me, I’ve been one, and I know plenty of the other (you do the math). The picture that is painted of Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried, the one cast member I didn’t love, although she sang alright, I just found her acting annoying, and she looks like a baby alien) wedding is like a teen girl fantasy. Tall, dark and handsome husband; on a beautiful tropical island; she makes her dress and her bridesmaid’s dresses; she doesn’t wear any make-up. And Meryl Streep plays the free-lovin’ late-40’s woman, who doesn’t need a man and does everything on her own, and has messy hair and doesn’t wear make-up. Frankly, I think the whole movie was some kind of menopause fairy tale — this strong, independent woman, has three handsome men all of the sudden at her feet, but she becomes all sissified by it, which is where I became offended. And I’m no feminist. Or maybe I am?
Mistake #2: Putting it in the hands of a theater director. I’m sure they were thinking, well Rob Marshall did it, but this theater director needs a quick trip to film school. Maybe they just gave her (Phyllida Lloyd) too much freedom and not enough guidance or assistance. They did a lot of challenging stuff in this movie — like shot more than half of it at Pinewood and greenscreened in the “beautiful Greek skyline” which looked AWFUL. So fake. It was like watching a Nickelodeon show or something where no one was even trying. And she did a LOT of really strange slo-mo shots of Meryl Streep, that just made me uncomfortable — like why am I watching her in this shot in slo-motion? Answer: for no apparent reason. She’s never directed a movie, and thinks slo-mo is just something cool you throw in like tinsel on a Christmas tree. There was even one of the very delicate and very wrongly used dialogue in slo-motion. What makes it worse, it wasn’t supposed to be hokey, which would have been okay and wasn’t supposed to be a scary or tense moment, which might have worked. Also the slo-mo dialogue was obviously ADR’ed which made it all the worse. Most of the songs and a lot of the dialogue were badly ADR’d. These kinds of moments utterly pulled me out of the movie experience.
Some scenes were so bad that I couldn’t tell if they were badly written or badly directed, so I’ll go ahead and guess that it was both…
Continue reading about Mamma Mia! (major spoilers)…Mamma Mia! could’ve used a (really good) script doctor. The script on the whole didn’t tell me a good story – it was like they picked a handful of ABBA songs and were like, “Ok, let’s toss these in, in no particular order, and just make our way from one to the next without actually caring about any kind of overall storyline.” I’ll get into how out of left-field every aspect of the ending was. And all of the conflicts that develop during it either don’t make sense, are never settled, or are settled WAY to quickly.
The musical sequences made me sad, because, in general, there was really great singing, but the acting wasn’t great and there was either bad or not enough choreography. Meryl’s climax was pretty powerful, or supposed to be, but I couldn’t feel it the way Phyllida wanted me too. It might have been the bad dubbing or that it was horribly shot… Poor Meryl! She sounded great!
Now we’ll get to the REALLY strange underdeveloped endings for all of the characters. At the last minute after NO DEVELOPMENT leading up to this, Sophie, who has been excited about this wedding for the whole movie, says, at the alter, “Wait a minute! Let’s not get married! Let’s go travel!” And everyone’s like, “Hooray!” Then, slightly more random, Peirce Brosnan, one of the Three Men to Sophie’s Baby says to Meryl’s Donna, “Wait a minute — I should marry you then.” I guess this was slightly alluded to, but still a bit random. And Colin Firth comes out of the closet (who, what, huh?) and Julie Walters, one of Meryl’s sidekicks, starts stalking Stellan Skarsgard, again, completely out of nowhere. WHY WOULD THEY THROW ALL THESE APPLES AT US, PEOPLE???? It was seriously like watching bad British panto.
I haven’t seen the play MAMMA MIA! (and thanks to this movie never, ever will). I had some prejudgement going on about the musical when it first came out because the poster looked a LOT like the MURIEL’S WEDDING poster, which is also about a wedding and has a lot of ABBA in the storyline and on the soundtrack (and which handles it MUCH better than this movie did). But was the play this ridiculous? Please, someone tell me… And don’t ask the Exec Prods, Tom and Rita Hanks, ’cause they apparently just love all things Greek…