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  Publicity Stills of
"Mama Mia!"
(Courtesy of UIP)

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Cast: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Official Website: http://www.mammamiamovie.com/

Opening Day: 18 September 2008


Meryl Streep leads an all-star cast as an independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, Donna (Streep) is about to let go of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), the spirited daughter she’s raised alone. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, Sophie brings back three men from Donna’s past to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Based on the smash hit musical seen by over 30 million people worldwide with a gross to date of $2 billion. It is set to songs by popular '70s group ABBA

Movie Review:

Stage director Phyllida Lloyd's film debut knows exactly what it is and what it means to a clamouring fanbase worldwide. Already one of the biggest ever musicals ever put to stage – consistently selling out Broadway and the West End, its translation to the screen is now poised to be the biggest film musical of all time through its knack of reaching across generations (a theme that runs through the film) through a timeless soundtrack and the rare ability to garner repeat business. The film’s force of showmanship is distinctive all right, and to be sure, “Mamma Mia!” utilises the preternaturally addictive ABBA catalogue to clever use by never veering far from its showcase tunes of instantly recognisable anthems. But there's a much more crucial factor to its commercial success than its inherently gratifying, time-tested Europop extravaganza, and that would seem to be how the viewing experience energises audiences into a frenzy before, during and after the film.

Each of them – and you know who you are – on a certain level view “Mamma Mia!” as a sort of audience participation, seen in the likes of originals like “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”, “Cabaret”, “Grease”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Hairspray” (circa 1988) and of course, its spiritual predecessor, “Xanadu”. These films trade heavily on their camp sensibilities and tacky production numbers that go above a natural tolerance for kitsch and the hysterical. You'd be hard-pressed to not find shoes tapping, fingers strumming invisible chords and sotto voce singing at a screening room. This collective spirit of celebration, the utter gaiety of being apart of a harmonious thread is apparent everywhere in the film, particularly when a Greek chorus becomes suddenly apparent as its impressive array of acting talent attempt to sing their way out of paper bags.

What you hear is what you get. Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgard and its young lead, Amanda Seyfried are shoehorned into singing roles. The uninspired, contrived, threadbare story that strings most of ABBA’s Top 20 hits together revolves around a soon-to-be-wed Sophie’s (Seyfried) attempts to bring three men (Brosnan, Firth, Skarsgard) to the small, idyllic Greek island of Kalokairi for the very purpose of rooting out which of them is her biological father by bringing them face to face with her feisty single mother Donna played by an indomitable Streep. Never you mind its absolute farce of a premise, just admire its sheer audacity of even attempting it.

Steeped in mediocrity, the film is a dissonant fuse of feckless filmmaking and unqualified brio. Lloyd underdirects every aspect of the film by playing it safe, giving way to an overly effusive and overly acted emoting by its usually terrific cast, proving that even the best of them stumble over tricky song-and-dance material. Brosnan gives a muscular performance even through throaty recitals, but Streep surprises with an impassioned salvo. But the musical performances have a delightfully novel quality of a night at a karaoke bar with awkward uncles and drunken mothers. They are rough around the edges, but remain charming, proving that not everything equates to the sum of its parts. “Mamma Mia!” wants to be an experience to be relished, with an intrinsic need to convert the unconverted by its purely stupendous force of ardent spectacle and delirious pizzazz.

Movie Rating:

(Irrepressible camp, purely entertaining – flaws and all)

Review by Justin Deimen


. Shine A Light (2008)

. Across The Universe (2007)

. Hairspray (2007)

. Dreamgirls (2006)

. Beyond the Sea (2006)

. Perhaps Love (2005)

. Beatles Biggest Secret DVD (2004)


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