You’re among friends so I promise I won’t laugh at you. You know you’ve secretly wanted to see a musical set to the songs of Swedish super group ABBA. Okay maybe not, but at least admit you’ve always yearned to hear the singing voice of Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep. No to that too? If that’s the case then perhaps Mamma Mia! isn’t the movie for you, that is unless you can look beyond the aforementioned “highlights” and see through to what actually amounts to an entertaining movie.
But first let me jump right into the singing since it is the main driver of the film. Simply put, it is nothing to write home about. Actually, a large portion of it is rather painful to listen to, with the biggest offender being Pierce Brosnan. His dashing good looks and sexy English/Irish accent can’t mask the fact that he is just as tone deaf as William Hung was. Yes ladies, he has a flaw. For you cougar hunters, Meryl Streep isn’t much better either. She keeps her voice at a relatively soft, off-key monotone which I found distressing because I actually had to strain to hear her clearly (which may have something to do with my going to one to many Metallica concerts, although I doubt it). The only actor on the set of Mamma Mia! with at least a tiny smidgen of ability was Amanda Seyfried, which I assume is a blessing based solely off of her tender age.
Overriding this blight is the obvious fun the actors are having at the expense of their shortfalls. They know they can’t sing a lick but that doesn’t stop them from making the most out of the playful script, which is simple and unassuming. Streep is Donna, the owner of a Greek villa and the single mother to daughter Sophie (Seyfried). Sophie is getting married and wants nothing more than to have her father walk her down the aisle. There is a slight problem though – Donna played the field back in the day and there is a tossup as to who the father is. Maybe it is the British banker Harry Bright (Colin Firth) that she spent the night with. Perhaps it is American architect Sam Carmichael (Brosnan), who shared a few nights in her bed as well. Or maybe, just maybe, it is Swedish thrill seeker Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard), who managed to squeeze some time in there as well. No matter who it is, they’re all invited to the event; unwanted by Donna, being scrutinized by Sophie and utterly confused by the whole situation.
This predictably leads to some heartfelt and goofy moments between all involved. When confronted with the very real possibility that they may have a 20-year old daughter that they’ve never met, each of the “fathers” step up to the plate – all are more than willing to make up for lost time. Adding credence to all these moments is the fact that Amanda Seyfried has an innocent glow about her that it is very easy to fall for. As for silliness, just watching people inexplicably break out in poorly choreographed dance sequences is enough for me to laugh and shake my head in disbelief. It is something I’ve never been able to get used to when watching a musical – it always seems comical (even when not meant to be) and completely unnatural.
On the merits of telling a good story though, Mamma Mia! gains marks. It is certainly a fun movie that captures the viewer’s interest – for the most part. The idea of having a girl seeking out her birth father rings true with our current state of affairs. Telling it in a fun, lighthearted manner makes it all the more palatable. The failure is casting actors and actresses that don’t have an iota of strength in the singing or dancing department. It is rather enjoyable at the onset to see these accomplished thespians make fools of themselves but just like the final evisceration scene in Braveheart, you find yourself hollering for the torture to stop.
While I haven’t seen the Broadway version of Mamma Mia! that the movie is based on, I can’t help but think that the Broadway version is better. For the price though, as compared to a Broadway showing, the film adaptation is worth the cash. Give it a watch — especially if you don’t have the 100+ dollars needed for a mezzanine ticket . . .