Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mamma Mia!

So what is this one about?
Once again Netflix comes through with a much better description than both imdb and wikipedia. (Come on guys...)
Based on the international hit musical featuring the songs of pop superstars ABBA, this charming tale centers on a bride-to-be (Amanda Seyfried) and her plan to uncover her father's identity by inviting three of her mother's (Meryl Streep) former lovers to her wedding. Produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, this big-screen adaptation also stars Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Christine Baranski.
(The Internet Movie Database tried to slip this nugget into their summary... "Featuring the songs of ABBA and based on the worlds number one musical comedy which has people dancing in the aisles every night, this movie is sure to be the hit of Summer 2008!" Oh those imdb tricksters!!)

And how much did I pay to watch?
Mom bought the tickets. But they cost $5. Yeah Cinema Arts and their cheap early morning shows!

But, when I got home I did download 5 ABBA songs on itunes (yes ABBA, not songs from Mamma Mia the musical) so that cost $4.95.

And what did I think?
Well, let me just take a moment to tell everyone that I really enjoy a good musical. "Les Miserables" is my absolute favorite, and it is an excellent book too! Movie musicals are a little harder, but my favorites are Hairspray and Moulin Rouge! Oh yeah, and The Sound of Music. Oh yeah, and also Sweeney Todd (I forgot it because I just got in on dvd and haven't watched it hundreds of times like the other three)It is hard to take a stage musical and translate it to the screen, I think, and thats why we've never seen Les Miserables the Movie Musical (though I'd like to try).

One thing you may notice about these musicals though is that they use the music to tell the story. Rather than sort of stopping the action to interject a ridiculous song that doesn't advance the plot--which makes a musical very campy--these others use the songs as the explanations that advance the plot (ok, maybe The Sound of Music doesn't do that as much as the others, but we'll excuse it because it is from 1965 and it won a bunch of Oscars). For example, "A Little Priest" in Sweeney Todd explains to the audience that good ol' Mrs. Lovett is using people and putting them in her pies [oops, SPOILER ALERT!]. In Mamma Mia! (can't forget that exclamation point...ever notice how musicals like to use the exclamation point to denote FUN! ?) the plot is constantly stopping so music can be interjected.

It very much feels like whoever wrote this libretto was sitting listening to ABBA and then decided to somehow push their songs into some sort of form that would tell a story. The movie (and I'm going to assume show) feels very contrived. Besides the music the contrived feeling comes from the situation. I mean, dancing and singing, a wedding, a sunny Greek Island, a comedy of errors, and a gay guy. Thats like the formula for a musical. Pick a fun place (a Greek island), throw in some romance (wedding), then add a little confusion (comedy of errors), sprinkle in some singing and dancing, (preferably done by a character who has a "history" of doing them, and for good measure add a character who is gay and TA DAH! MUSICAL!! If thats not the formula then I don't know what is. (Oh yeah, [SPOILER ALERT] the gay character is played by Colin Firth. I don't believe that for one second. That is pure malarky!)

One of the reasons for this ridiculous screen interpretation, I think, was because Tom Hanks was one of the executive producers. The second I saw his name pop up in the ending credits (which were actually awesome!) I turned to my mom and said "I should have flipping known! This movie reeked of Tom Hanks!!!" Now, Tom Hanks as an exec producer in and of itself is not a bad thing. No. Tom Hanks as the executive producer of a musical is. Did we all see That Thing You Do! (notice the exclamation point?)? Well MM! and TTYD! were absolutely cut from the same campy, everything will turn out ok in the end cloth. And I for one do not need it!

Now, the music itself was not bad--which I guess is evident by my purchasing of the original ABBA songs--but some of the covers weren't great. With that said, though, Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfreid (from Big Love fame) actually had pretty good voices. Actually, I'd say they were pretty great! Amanda really had a pretty voice.

While her singing was great, Meryl Streep's dancing and writhing during the film was uncomfortable to watch. errrrrrrr. As was watching her squeeze into the spandex bell-bottomed unitard (as seen at the top of the page).

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Musicals should be fun and let you forget the world for a time. This did that. Though, there were some serious times where I had to shake my head, smack my forehead with my hand, or throw back my head and heave a disappointed sigh. Some of the movie was just so ridiuclous I couldn't stand it. And musicals are SUPPOSED TO BE RIDICULOUS!!!

It wasn't awful. But, it wasn't that great. I give it a 5.

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