Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 1:56am
(I can hear you all now - "Mama Mia?! Why the hell didn't she go see Batman, like everyone else?")
So, first let me say that I have never seen the stage show, (and now I never will), so maybe I am missing something. On the other hand, my feeling that this film is an absolute steaming divot is not the result of some whiny "The book was better" pathology. Also, apart from "Dancing Queen" (You know you love it), I am not a big fan of Swedish pop in general, and Abba in particular (Sorry, Gays). And, let's face it - there is something faintly ridiculous about disco - ridiscolous, in fact. (Don't get me wrong - I confess to loving many songs of that genre, especially "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and "Don't Leave Me This Way". I also regard Barry Gibb as one of our most prolific songwriters). Any the damned old way, I knew all of this going in, and endeavored to keep an open mind.
I was hopeful, due to the great cast. Most folks either love or hate Meryl Streep, and I am of the former tribe. I just ADORE her, and she can carry a tune (see "Postcards From the Edge"). She is also still sexy, in my opinion, and I greatly admire her willingness to take risks in her work, which she definitely does in this film. She has some crap moments, but she also has a few really nice moments. These are sadly immediately crushed by ill-timed bursts into song, but still.
In fact, this is my main complaint with this picture - the structure just seems off. There is often no natural build into song (and some would argue that there never is in musicals), but instead, there is a clunky transition that involves a character speaking the first lines of the song (I.E.:"You know, if you change your mind, I'm the first in line. Honey, I'm still free," And then the orchestra gets involved in time for "Take a chance on meeeeeeee!" to be belted or croaked, as the case may be). The result is that all momentum is lost, since the audience can see the song coming over on the boat from the mainland.
The only actor who doesn't seem to be affected by this awkward structure, is the shiningly lovely and charming Amanda Seyfried, who plays ingenue, Sophie. I have managed to never see this girl before, but I think I will see her again. She seems utterly comfortable and believable.
Actually, I recant - my MAIN problem with this film, is that it inexplicably has more super slow-mo moments than a T.J. Hooker episode. Sadly, no one is sliding over the hood of a car while giving chase to a criminal, nor is anyone running from an exploding car just in the nick of time. Let me just say that after seeing Karen Silkwood (whom I believe to be in her mid 50's, now) jump up and down and touch her toes, cheerleader style, ON A BED in SLOW MOTION, I turned to my beloved Giverny, and said, "The director and choreographer of this film surely made and executed a suicide pact with one another after seeing this premiere".
Meryl does her best, standing on a cliff with her magnificent rack blowing in the breeze and Patty Luponing her ass off for "The Winner Takes It All." Unfortunately, in the Mack-truck sized pause before this song, a Puerto Rican gentleman seated down left (among friends who were all openly texting throughout) said very loudly, "Damn. This girl ALWAYS singin' shit." Perhaps in retaliation, a group of older women seated back right burst into enthusiastic applause following the same number.
Some other issues with this flick, are that there is clearly not a straight man on this Greek island (I was reminded of the old "Wonder Woman" episode in which she returns to her home Isle of Lesbos, or what have you), which becomes abundantly clear when Skye's (groom -to- be), friends rise up out of the sea in snorkels and masks to whisk him away to his bachelor party, but instead line up in yam-bag hugging swim panties and flippers to do a bizarre dance on the dock.
Additionally, to be set on a Greek Isle, there are precious few Greeks in the film (A particular dearth of scantily-clad Greek males was especially evident). Most everyone seems to hail from the UK in some fashion (England, Scotland, etc.) except for Meryl, Sofie, and Pierce Brosnan, who come from the good old U. S. of A, judging by their accents. (Though in Pierce's case, not originally). The Greeks seem to be there only to perform menial tasks - cooking hideous fish, donkey-wrangling, and back-up singing.
I also began to believe about a quarter of the way through that Christine Baranski is a shim. My future husband, Coiln Firth (with whom I would totally have sex), seems to have gotten dentures since his last film, which I found odd. The fabulous Julie Walters, A.K.A. Mrs. Weasley, is normally a favorite, but watching a menopausal woman sing badly in feather-epauletted spandex and platforms made me feel - well, uncomfortable.
However, the most cringe-worthy performance by far belongs to Pierce Brosnan. This poor bastard can't carry a tune in a bucket with both hands. We were literally crossing our fingers during every scene that included him to indicate our fond wishes that he would NOT express himself in song again. Perhaps to compensate for his atrocious singing, he over- acts his white linen pants off. The most heinous song is the first one he sings (which I have blocked from my brain a scant 3 hours after viewing). This tune becomes a duet with he and Meryl standing with their backs against either side of the same brick chimney and looking over their shoulders to deliver said song to the camera a la' Sandy and Danny of Grease fame. What's worse than hearing him sing? Watching him emote while doing it.
Now even though Pierce is damn near old enough to be my grandpappy, I have secretly wished to have sex with him since the Remington Steele days. This performance cured me of my 20 year crush - "Thanks, former James Bond!".
In spite of everything, I definitely think this film is a must see, however, for the simple fact that you will pee. You will just pee. I'm not sure that's the effect executive producers Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks (honestly, they're the behind-the scenes Oprah - involved in EVERYthing) were going for, but there it is.