Mamma Mia! A 4 out of 10 movie review
So the Abba movie starts with a group of squealing girls who go all gooey over the use of ellipses in a diary and for the next thirty minutes one of these girls continues to squeal at everyone. In fact, the entire cast seem to have been paid initially to squeal in the most annoying way as much as possible. It's painful to the ears and you're hoping that somehow the movie will improve. Well despite the obligatory "chick-flick" squealing interrupting the always good Abba music, this annoyance does cease and we are left trying to figure out where this film is going (after wasting almost a third of it).
Now you have to bear in mind that I attended this movie (as a man) accompanied by two women in the hope that I wouldn't feel like a prick for paying money to see it. This didn't work. Somehow spending the evening watching a "girly" film (as my dear sister puts it) on a Saturday evening left me with the belief that I truly live a sad life. Nevertheless, at least attending Mamma Mia with two close family members would allow me to observe their reactions to it afterwards. So whilst you were eating cold pizza from last night's drink-a-thon, I was getting in touch with my feminine side.
So it is a Saturday evening and you'd think that the truly sociable people in the world are out dancing their heart out in an attempt to get a date (some hope), tucked up in bed because the wife is still carrying on about that damn toilet seat or watching Wall-E. Mamma Mia! has been out for a week and a half in Britain, so you'd think that the cinema would not be so busy. Actually, whilst booking tickets, Wall-E was showing up having a great deal of spaces and Mamma Mia! was nearly sold out. It seems then, that this movie is very popular.
The synopsis is straightforward and relatively unimaginative. The mother of the bouncing chested squealer was a slut in a previous life and is unable to truly identify the squealer's father. The squealer sends letters off to each of these potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) to invite them to her wedding to a tanned and toned twat-like creature who has the personality of an ironing board. They all come running and madness ensues. That is: the madness of the redneck / hippy / dungaree wearing Meryl Streep. This madness is aided by her friends Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. Everyone else in the movie acts as a singer or dancer for the piece.
So imagine for a second you are making a cake. Then imagine you have the best ingredients. Can you always make a perfect cake with perfect ingredients? The fact is Mamma Mia! starred solid actors, solid singers, solid dancers and a beautiful location. Unfortunately, the actors can't sing, the singers can't act and the location is beautiful but wasted. To be fair, the dancers were okay. I can't truly describe to you the pain though, that I experienced whilst watching Brosnan sing (or at least try to). If you have ever watched Ricky Gervais' The Office, you'll know what type of embarrassment it is. I sat there with my hand across my face in physical pain, peaking through the holes between my fingers in the hope that he would stop soon. This continues with Streep's bad rendition of various Abba classics such as The Winner Takes it All and Money, Money, Money. She murders the songs I have enjoyed for years. It is only after about an hour you realise you are watching a karaoke. Once you accept this, you start watching the movie in a completely different light. The not-great singing is meant to be that way.
If this movie then is a karaoke, then I have a few problems. Firstly, karaoke may be ideal if I was watching Mamma Mia! in a trendy place such as the West End of London or Newquay. However, somehow singing along to an Abba style movie in the heart of Surrey is something us British do not do. We are much more reserved than that! Oh yes. Even though we all know the words, no lyrics shall escape our lips for fear of embarrassment. This ultimately is a great shame as I feel that if only a few of us had been willing, we could have had the entire audience singing along (how very camp). What I experienced though was laughter throughout the scenes with Walters and Baranski along with the three potential fathers, and not so much as a foot tap whilst any music was playing. If this was truly a karaoke piece then why oh why did we have little miss perfect singing-voice (but squeals a lot) amongst these bunch of wrinklies who cannot even hit the right note when being paid a couple of million each?
So many questions arise it seems. Why did Benny and Björn's cameos have to be so painfully obvious with them grinning at the camera in a "here I am. I'm important. look at me" kind of way. Where were the cameos of Agnetha and Frida? Am I the only one in the world who remembers Abba as a band of 4 and not 2? Irrelevant of any supposed hostility between band members, they should have had their chance to grin stupidly at the camera.
Now after talking about the singing in Mamma Mia! it's important to go back to the ever bouncing chest of Amanda Seyfried. Why was the director spending so much time concentrating on the bust area of this girl and why was she always running? Perhaps it is a Swedish thing where all women are required to not have any support, wear low-cut swimming costumes all of the time and run about a lot. In truth, I had no intention of mentioning this point in the review. However, when my female co-viewers also mentioned this ever-bouncing phenomenon I realised that this point was valid and not just in my ever-perverted mind.
Mamma Mia felt just a tad bit too long. Sometimes the singing was painfully wrong. Skarsgård was underused, Brosnan was overused and Streep cannot hold your attention whilst hollering "The Winner Takes it all" to Mr Brosnan on a cliff edge. The fact is this song was the only one that didn't quite fit into the story. Feeling incredibly dim, I tried to imagine who she was talking about. Who was the winner? Her? Brosnan? The squealer? Does anyone care?
Despite my criticisms though, there is little doubt (in my mind) that Mamma Mia! will become a classic. You'll need to see it so many times that the jokes and words are engraved into your Hippocampus before you will truly appreciate it for what it is. This movie will take it's place alongside Grease as a great sing-a-long piece for the whole family to enjoy (provided they are female). It is best to watch it once in the cinema, buy the soundtrack, then go back with six slightly inebriated friends and start singing along to the music. If you start singing in the theater, then I will guarantee that everyone else will join in and before you know it, a party has broken out. This movie is the epitome of 4 out of 10. It is a great movie with some awful, awful flaws. Sometimes it makes you embarrassed, sometimes it makes you grind your teeth. It'll never make you cry (or any other such extreme emotion, unless you count Brosnan's singing), but like so many great films, it will get better and better with each viewing. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a movie and yet embracing its flaws. Unless you are under the impression that you are flawless. For that however, I would seek some help. A Narcissistic personality disorder is not a good thing.
Rating: 5 out of 5 (It's cheesy, overly focused on women, has an annoying squealer in it, some bad singing,contrived and yet continues to be endearing. I think I'm going to go and see it again; only this time with a larger and more inebriated group)
As an afterthought: for those men who are single and have nothing to do on a weekend evening, I suggest the following:
- Buy some earplugs
- Buy a ticket to Mamma Mia!
- Watch the movie (putting earplugs in for the Squealer and Brosnan scenes)
- Walk out of the movie and talk to any one of the largest female-to-male ratio you have ever known.
- Finally get that long overdue "hot date" you've been convincing yourself you need.
Have you seen Mamma Mia? Do you think it is an instant classic? Is it the next Grease? Can only Camp men and women appreciate the movie? If so, what does that make me? Your thoughts and opinions are always welcome. UPDATE: I have found another problem with the marketing for this movie. The cinema should be selling a stage-show style lyric book so that the audience doesn't have to remember all of the words from years ago and can join in the fun. Why wasn't this thought of? Where are the marketing gurus and their brilliant ideas?