Wednesday 4 July 2018

Movie Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

A musical set to the songs of Swedish group ABBA, Mamma Mia! is a frivolous exercise in threading a non-plot through more than 20 toe-tapping pop hits.

On a Greek island, 20 year old Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to be married to Sky (Dominic Cooper). Sophie's mom is the free spirited Donna (Meryl Streep), a former singer who now runs a bed and breakfast villa. Sophie never knew who her dad was, but secretly delves into Donna's diaries to uncover three candidate men: architect Sam (Pierce Brosnan), adventurer Bill (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) and banker Harry (Colin Firth). Unbeknownst to Donna, she invites them all to the wedding.

Meanwhile, Donna invites her former co-performers and best friends Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters). When everyone arrives ahead of the wedding, the three men are astonished to meet each other, Sophie is surprised that she cannot immediately tell which of the men is her father, and Donna is shocked that three former lovers have appeared at her doorstep.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and based on the hit stage musical by Catherine Johnson, Mamma Mia! features Hollywood actors on vacation warbling ABBA songs, often quite badly. While Streep is as usual near perfect in throwing herself into a singing role, the rest of the cast are much less convincing, with Brosnan in particular almost painful.

Almost every well-known ABBA song is lined up and knocked down, including the title track, Money, Money, Money, Dancing Queen, Chiquitita, S.O.S., Take A Chance On MeThe Name Of The Game, The Winner Takes It AllVoulez-Vous and Does Your Mother Know. If nothing else, the film serves as a reminder of the group's superlative ability to conjure up singalong hits set to infectious melodies.

As a film Mamma Mia! fails on all cinematic counts. The non-singing scenes appear scripted on the spot and fail to create anything that resembles a plot. The choreography is amateurish, the acting almost embarrassing, the attempted jokes lame and the emotions utterly manufactured.

The only point of the movie appears to be to sing along to the music; otherwise Mamma Mia! is best left stranded on whichever secluded island will tolerate the noisy antics.

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