Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writers: Catherine Johnson (screenplay), Catherine Johnson (musical book)
Stars: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried
What can one say about this film that perhaps has not already been said? I’m not sure but we shall give it a good old go. First things first though. Mamma Mia! is based off the long-running musical of the same name, which was written by the English writer Catherine Johnson. What is not oft known is that this stage musical was actually adapted from a 1968 Italian/American film called Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell which starred the wonderful Gina Lollobrigida and Shelley Winters along with a host of other top stars for the time.
Some variances do exist between the stage musical and the film with regard to the soundtrack. Certain tracks like Chiquitita and Knowing Me, Knowing You do not appear and some songs appear in the movie and not the musical. Regardless, if you are an ABBA fan you will be pleased with what is in as most of the big hits are covered. And let’s be honest here, you are probably unlikely to be watching this anyway if you are not a fan of the 70’s super-group (if anyone like that actually exists) so you will be more than happy. Benny and Bjorn even make cameos. What more could you ask for other than the lovely Agnetha perhaps.
To the actual story, Sophie (Seyfried) is due to be married on a Greek island on which her mother Donna (a fantastic Streep) owns a small rundown and rather ramshackle hotel. Unbeknownst to her mother, Sophie has been trying to find out more information about her father and has been reading her mothers diaries. She finds out that her father could be one of three different men, so in her desperation to know who her father is and have him walk her down the isle at her wedding, she invites all three of them to the island without her mothers knowledge. It is at this point that the film really takes off in earnest.
Sam (a ridiculously funny Brosnan), Bill (Skarsgård) and Harry (Firth) all arrive at the hotel unaware of who the others actually are. Meanwhile Donna has also invited her best friends, Rosie (Walters) and the tenacious Tanya (brilliantly played by Barabski) and thus fun ensues as soon as Donna finds out they are on the island. Cue lots of comedy moments and music thrown in. Now I must confess, with the exception being The King and I, I personally cannot stand musicals. So I was dubious about watching this one. I should not have been concerned as this is perhaps the best musical put onto celluloid (well digital these days I guess) and a rockingly good film all round.
Everyone plays their part wonderfully (though I felt the part of Sophie’s betrothed, played by Dominic Cooper was a very weak) and you can really tell that everyone is just having a blast making this film. It really shines through in their performances. Streep along with Walters and Baranski are brilliant as old friends reminiscing about old times and trying to fix the problem of the three possible fathers. As for the potential fathers, they all play off each other brilliantly and to see Brosnan send himself up is hilarious. He is actually quite a funny guy and certainly up for a laugh, even if that is at his own expense. You have to see it to believe it, even more so given he signed onto the project just because of Streep and had no knowledge of what it was about.
Even the extras looked like they were literally having the time of their lives. Structured similar to a Greek comedy, all the extras in the village on the island and Donna’s staff act as a chorus, all appropriately dressed to match what is happening when the mood of the film requires yet another blasting of an ABBA classic. All brilliantly well done stuff. Phyllida Lloyd’s (who also directed the original Broadway play) direction is spot on here and she really gets the best performances out of her cast. Is it full of cheese at times? It sure as hell is and it is all the more engaging, comedic and watchable for it.
A hundred other films are referenced and made fun off along the way and it can be fun to try and catch them all before a new setting is in front of your eyes and a new dance sequence starts off. The script can be a little flaky in places but otherwise is great. As previously stated, acting all round is pretty good even though there is a serious lack of chemistry from any of the people supposed to be madly in love with each other. Some of the singing (the men are not the greatest in all honesty) is mostly excellent and Pierce Brosnan is just a joy to behold and truly hilariously bad. I defy you to keep a straight face, I’m pretty sure non of the cast did.
If you like your musicals, hell, even if you don’t like your musicals, I think pretty much everyone loves ABBA. I recently watched this again with someone who somehow seemed to have missed most of ABBA’s career and they absolutely loved it. Good company, good wine and fantastic music go to make a great night and this film will not disappoint. A very solid 4 stars for us.
The Sage’s Rating: