From the smash hit stage show comes this larger than life musical epic. Bringing you an all-star cast, the songs of ABBA and an extravaganza of dancing and laughter, Mamma Mia! is the feel good film of the year.
Bride to be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is on a quest to find her father before her big day. There is just one problem... she’s just not sure who he is. After secretly reading her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) old diaries, she discovers he is one of three past loves. Knowing her mother would not approve, she invites them all. Sophie desperately tires to keep their presence hidden but it’s not long before the secret is out and the fun begins...
Warning: You may just feel the urge anytime during this movie to sing along at the top of your voice or dance along to the surely familiar tunes. Oh yes, Mamma Mia is simply that much giddy, infectious fun. And hey if your urges of the above nature had been inhibited when you watched it in the cinema, then seeing it again in the comfort of your home will definitely afford you the luxury of indulging in such spontaneity.
As is the case with most musicals, the plot comes secondary to the music. Here, the wafer thin plot revolves around a bride-to-be, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who invites three men she thinks could be her father to attend her wedding on an idyllic Greek island. Of course, her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep) doesn’t know about it. So imagine her surprise when she sees her three ex-lovers- Bill the adventurer (Stellan Skarsgard), Harry the banker (Colin Firth) and Sam the architect (Pierce Brosnan)- all at the same time and place.
But never mind the details. The story is more than anything a convenient excuse to string together hit after hit of ABBA songs. From “I Have a Dream” to “Dancing Queen” to “Take a Chance on Me”, you’re bound to have heard every one of those radio-friendly pop tunes. One of the singular accomplishments of Mamma Mia however is building a coherent story around these tunes and in this regard, it has succeeded exceedingly.
Of course, this credit goes to writer Catherine Johnson who also penned the smash hit stage musical that this movie is based on. Whether is it the excitement of Sophie’s wedding, the anxiety of Donna meeting her three ex-flames or the apprehension of Sophie discovering the truth behind her father’s identity, the songs never seem out of place to convey every smile, frown or tear the story requires.
Rather than resting on the success of its stage laurels, director Phyllida Lloyd has also boldly made use of the transition from stage to screen. Here she fully utilises the Greek outdoor locale to stage many impressive song and dance sequences- just check out “Lay All You Love on Me” or “Mamma Mia”. So even though she makes many mistakes a rookie director would be prone to, you’ll find yourself feeling generous enough to just go along for the ride.
And it helps that she has recruited a great cast that knows how to have fun. Proving once again that she is one of the most luminous actresses of this generation, Meryl Streep is the heart and soul of this movie. The fact that she gamely sang all her songs on set (instead of relying on studio recording) only reinforces her dedication to her craft. Most certainly, the ensemble cast of Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Amanda Seyfried also lend much panache to the movie.
Indeed, Mamma Mia is an exercise in fun and frivolity in the cinema. And on home video, it’s no better excuse to jump up, sing along or dance along to those nostalgic ABBA tunes. By the end of it all, you’ll surely be saying “thank you for the music, for giving hymn to me”!
Feature Commentary with director Phyllida Lloyd - Most interesting for its insight into the many challenges of translating this musical from stage to screen by the leading British theatre director and rookie filmmaker.
The Making of Mamma Mia - Divided into three distinct segments- Birthing Mamma Mia, The Filmmaking and The Cast, this making of tells of how this 10-year due film adaptation of the smash hit musical came to be.
Anatomy of a Musical Number “Lay All Your Love On Me”- It may look romantic on screen, but actors Dominic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried will tell you otherwise of their experience filming this musical number.
Becoming a Singer - You don’t think ABBA was going to let their songs be butchered without them having a say in it would you? No of course not! Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus here show how they worked with the cast members to make sure they were ready to sing as well as they could act.
A Look inside Mamma Mia - Pretty thin look at the success of Mamma Mia the musical itself that managed to spawn this film adaptation.
Deleted Musical Number “The Name of the Game” - Wisely cut out of the theatrical cut if I may say so.
Bjorn Ulvaeus Cameo - If you missed his cameo in the end credits singing Waterloo, here’s your chance to get a closeup of it.
How better to enjoy this than to turn up the volume and let the Dolby 5.1 audio track immerse you fully in the ABBA mania. Visuals are splendid and make the Greek scenery even more gorgeous.
Review by Gabriel Chong