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United Kingdom/USA 2008
Directed by
Phyllida Lloyd
108 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

Mamma Mia!

Synopsis: Donna (Meryl Streep) runs a small hotel on a small Greek island with her 20 year old daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Sophie’s about to get married when Sophie finds her mum's tell-all diary from those days, she decides to invite the three men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) named therein in the hope she might find out if one of them is her Dad.

In order to get some idea of the awfulness of Mamma Mia!, imagine On Golden Pond made over in the forced spirit of High School Musical 2. Or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter as all you can think of is why? Thankfully I’ve not experienced Chinese water torture or been strapped to a chair while slivers of bamboo were pushed under my fingernails but I’d admit to anything to get out of Phyllida Lloyd’s film.

I’ve not seen the hit stage show on which Mamma Mia! is based but I can imagine that it would be quite an enjoyable experience – Benny and Björn’s irresistible pop songs, wall-to-wall 70s kitsch, the excitement of a live performance. But inflated to the two dimensions of the silver screen and shot like a travel spread from a glossy woman’s magazine, it puts your teeth on edge.

To be fair, the trio of older women, Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters do a terrific job, throwing themselves into their parts with gusto. But the characters are too old to have been ABBA fans, let alone ABBA imitators, in their youth (they would have been listening to The Eagles and James Taylor and the imitation craze was a 90s thing) and now in their sixties their supposed second childhood is frankly embarrassing. The men, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård are far less effective, doing little more than standing around and looking frightfully awkward when required to shake their booties, or in Brosnan's case, sing (or more properly, croak). The only significant younger member of the cast, Amanda Seyfried, is an annoying mixture of OMG mannerisms that are standard in all teen movies these days (that she is old enough to be getting married seems as incredible as the proposition that these post-menopausal women shriek and scream like teenage girls at a summer camp).

The film is horribly made with scene after scene misjudged and marred by slapdash editing (or perhaps Lloyd left the editor with not enough material to do better), with much of the external audio evidently dubbed (and are those photographs of the grizzled actors in cheap wigs supposed to be taken as snapshots of yesteryear or is it an attempt at irony?). And whoever did the staging of the songs (presumably Lloyd who directed the original Broadway stage production) should be doing community service in reparation. Even more, no-one seems to have appreciated that ABBA’s song’s are great, but when sung by ABBA – that’s part of the fun. Muriel’s Wedding got it right. Mamma Mia! gets it so, so wrong

I did like the ending. And when I say the ending, I mean the very ending, not the dog’s dinner of about half-a-dozen endings which is yet another testament to how poorly realized this film is. Pierce Brosnan in full glam regalia is a sight to behold. But that’s not worth 100 minutes of torture.




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