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Mamma Mia!

Contrary to popular belief, males who like musicals are not gay.

Musical films have experienced a resurgence recently, and I'm not sure what brought about their new rise in popularity, but it seems that they're here to stay. I think it's the fusion between Holly- and Bollywood.

Anyway, this film is based on the musical of the same name, and as the title suggests, it is scored with music from the Swedish band Abba (the two male members of Abba in fact also make cameo appearances in the film).

Surprisingly, this film has now become the highest-grossing film musical of all time (how could it ever beat The Sound of Music?) and yet I do not consider this film a personal favorite.

First of all, I find it problematic when writers try to craft a musical around a pop band's discography, like what they did with The Beatles in Across the Universe. I believe it limits the story that can be crafted out of it, and it would take a genius to pull it off perfectly. And for me, this film comes off as a bit forced. But Abba seems happy about it, so why bother?

Performance-wise, Meryl Streep delivers a great performance, and though she is getting older, she still has the vibrancy of youth. It's not something that can be altered by plastic surgery; I'm talking about the inner youth from within. Meryl Streep still has it in her. Amanda Seyfried's performance is okay, to put it bluntly. It didn't suck, but it didn't stand out either. But her three possible fathers in the film are another matter altogether.

Critics lamented the fact that three talented gentlemen not known for their singing abilities were cast in a musical of this caliber (this was actually produced by Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson). I mean sure, Colin Firth knows a little guitar, and Stellan Skarsgård has some moves, but I pity Pierce Brosnan, whose singing has been compared to "a braying donkey" (ouch).

Production-wise, the film's setting limited the production, as everything took place on the Greek island of Kalokairi. So all the dancing and singing was confined to that location. And it is my opinion that Abba's songs are too colorful to be limited to such a small space.

Finally, when reviewing a musical, one cannot avoid comparing it with other musicals of its time. And my standard for modern musicals is still Hairspray. At least Hairspray had all original songs. Like I said, it is a very difficult task to construct a decent musical out of an existing band's discography, and this film is no exception.

Rating: Three stars.


Anonymous said...

I was very disappointed with the film, actually. I felt that everything was so forced and that's saying a lot considering that, as you pointed out, crafting a story around ABBA's songs can be a bit challenging.

Part of the problem, I think, is that they brought in the Broadway director for the film version who didn't bother adapting the treatment. The result: horrible overacting. I felt like having convulsions when I saw Ms. Streep go nuts in the song "Mama Mia."

My biggest qualm about the film is that they used the songs of ABBA which practically defined the disco generation...and yet there is not one decent dance number in the entire film. NOT ONE. I was expecting to see choreography that would have blown me away. Instead I saw three older women playing dress up and jumping on beds while "Dancing Queen" played in the background.

Unknown said...

totally agree re la Streep. what glorious abandon. she literally throws herself heart and soul into the role. i hate juke box musicals but this was the first and there have been so many (worse) that followed in its footsteps. i figured pierce would be able to at lest hold a tune on account he's irish - but no. hell no. this film was a delight and i enjoyed it in spite of hating the stage show. but what i really want to know is - what did you think of twilight????


Thank you for your comment. If there was one person I would love to comment on this, it's you, knowing your background in musicals and all.

And yes, three not-so-young women jumping on a bed really bothered me. Hahaha.

@the captain

I haven't seen Twilight, and I haven't read the book. I don't consider myself a fan, but in the name of film criticism, I'm willing to watch it and keep an open mind. After all, it wouldn't be that popular if it didn't have some sort of X-factor. I'll post a review as soon as I see it.

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