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Movie Review: Mamma Mia!

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If I was to live in a musical, it would without a doubt be Mamma Mia! — a place where there are no Top 40 chart songs, no mobile phones, where a swimming costume is an undergarment; and where one can dance along a pier while waving a feather boa and singing ABBA songs before jumping into a clear, turquoise sea without feeling like a moron.

Twenty-year-old Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is about to be married, and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. However she has no idea who her father is, although she managed to narrow it down to three potential candidates after reading her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) diary that she kept during a summer of rather enthusiastic promiscuity.

Unknown to Donna, Sophie invites the three to her wedding. Harry Bright (Colin Firth), Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), and Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard) arrive on the Greek island where twenty years ago they all shared happy memories of Donna, and unaware that Sophie may be their daughter.

For all it is Sophie’s wedding, it is Donna’s relationships with her three summer sweethearts that is by far the more emotionally involved story, perhaps due to the experience and calibre of the more mature cast. Sophie’s fiancée Sky, played by Dominic Cooper, seems more in love with himself than his bride-to-be, and looks and sings like a member of a boy band, and that is not meant as a compliment.

While the younger cast members have voices as polished and honed as the pop industry can produce, the elder thespians are not best known for their singing voices, but they try their best, bless them. I certainly wouldn’t mind Mr Darcy serenading me while playing guitar as we float idly in the Aegean seas in a nice sailing boat.

Brosnan sounds like a tone-deaf Joe Cocker, while Skarsgard seems to be talking rather than singing. None of that matters, however, as it is more rewarding to hear an untrained, unused, raw singing voice attempting songs far beyond its range, and they all fool around and have a ball while doing so.

Streep had by far the most impressive vocals. She carried the often challenging tunes wonderfully with her ethereal, clear voice made haggard by the demands of running a hotel that makes Fawlty Towers look like the Ritz. For all the light-heartedness of the musical, her acting still brought a tear to my eye, specifically in a moment after "Slipping Through My Fingers". Her rendition of “The Winner Takes It All” is the most haunting ever heard.

Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, as Donna’s backing singers of their former band The Dynamos, added the most comic relief as women of a certain age who still like to have fun. Walters’ advances on Bill while warbling through “Take A Chance On Me“, and Baranski’s rejection of a horny teenager to “Does Your Mother Know” were easily the most humorous set pieces in the entire movie.

Initially it is cringe-worthy and frankly rather weird to see Streep, Seyfried, and Cooper spontaneously burst into an ABBA song, but the energy and exuberance they bring to them is infectious. The music itself fits in with whatever it is set to, whether it be Brosnan getting in a cab in New York, or the camera panning up a small, hilly peninsula on top of which is set a small church. After this movie, which was filmed on the Greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos, Sky will definitely get his wish of seeing more tourists come to the island.

Sondheim it ain’t, but Mamma Mia! is a fun, funny, feel-good movie, and worth the entry fee alone to see James Bond and Fitzwilliam Darcy singing famously camp songs. While nowadays ABBA songs are deemed as guilty pleasures, for the duration of the film, they are simply pleasures.

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  • Musical Lover

    I’ve just seen a preview version.

    I give it 0 out of 10.

    It is the worst movie I have ever seen. Horrible direction it looks like a low budget piece of crap. And Meryl Streep singing is the worst.

    Remember when musicals dubbed REAL singer voices into a musical? Not here just crapppppppppppppppppp……….

    DO NOT pay money to see this! Rent it for $1 on DVD if you have to.

  • nobrainer

    see the movie before commenting..

    who the hell goes to movies looking for technicalities ( a critic might)…

    one goes to movies to feel emotions (else just go to the opera house to hear glass breaking voices)..

    This film is the funniest and most fun i had in movies for a while… it’s all light and funny.

    Go watch it!

  • Judy

    I love the movie! I’ve seen it three times already and watch some more!

  • The Dude

    OK…so I took my better half to see this movie…mainly because I knew it would mean a lot to her, this small gesture. I have to say that I even convinced myself that I could enjoy it enough to keep from squirming in my seat, making faces or groaning out loud. Luckily for me I did get to see this movie at a theater that serves beer and food so it was easier to deal with. This movie was pretty poorly done, even from a musical perspective. The majority of the cast don’t sing very well. Forget the ridiculous “plot” and the three old guys one of which may or may not be the lucky soul that created Sophie (which is not resolved really)…the dancing was bad, but what’s worse is we’re supposed to believe that Meryl Streep’s character had a daughter 20 years ago…what, when she was 40? The other old ladies are awful and not that funny…and there’s no way the “all too happy” looking black kid with the stupid hair would EVER be horny for that old lady from the Birdcage. And in the end…the stupid kids don’t even go through with the wedding. If they hadn’t filmed this in Greece it really would’ve bombed. It IS NOT funny, and it was not a good time. The movie was awful. And 007 can’t sing at all. His SOS version was painful to listen to. They must have done it in one take due to the fact that nobody wanted to hear him attempt to sing again. I suppose the old lady next to me who kept crying especially during the “Winner takes it all song” means that I simply am not the target market for this horrible movie. This movie will likely appeal to gay men and middle-aged women. If nothing else, it’s worth taking your woman to so she will owe you “something” *wink*

    Mama Mia!!!

    The Dude.

  • Yana

    I agree with The Dude (see above). Just listen to the ABBA’s CD if you like their music. Terrible movie. I never thought I would say it about a movie where Maryl S. is a lead actress.

  • telbeng

    Saw the film – thought it was really good as a fun, light-hearted, fun & take off of the musical, which I guess is what it was made as……and loved the fact that the cast just ‘sang/wobbled’ with their own voices (take note Dude) – a lot of the old musicals had famous actors voices dubbed by singers…. and I’d rather have any actor singing off note than have some professional just overdubbing…….

    The ‘Dude’ needs to maybe get a life and lighten up a bit…..! (how old is he.she – he/she sounds like he’s in his 50’s!) PS – I am 29 – so not even one of your old ladies in the audience Dude…… The cinema where I saw it in London was filled with female and males under 30 and they clapped the film at the end …..

  • Nanette

    Obviously the “The Dude” is a pathetic, immature, really stupid person. I am a singer/entertainer myself and look very critically at musicals. This movie was exceptional on all counts….music, choreography, humor, talent, and (very important) pacing of numbers. Of course Brosnan may not be a singer per se, but he was picked on purpose BECAUSE he is a most unlikely candidate for this movie. It added a special humor – the effect was perfect. And because he is so suave and charming, this demeanor sailed him through. He was great – and the writers, directors, choreographers and cast knew what they were doing. Excellent work. It made you feel happy, really happy, with a smile on your face and making you feel like you want to dance and jump up and down in your seat. This is what entertainment is about Mr. Dude – emotion and feeling! Sorry that you just didn’t get it and most probably you don’t get much of life either.
    Go see this movie more than once – it’ll brighten your day, your week, your attitude!

  • mmfan

    I’ve seen it 3 times now and loved every minute. I’m even getting accustomed to Pierce Brosnan’s singing – it’s not bad at all.

  • Kratos

    All you women need to stop ganging up on the Dude. Say what you will about the movie, but try to focus on the movie and not other people. I find it funny when you have a positive opinion about something, you express it but then get defensive when someone says negative stuff about you, based solely on your opinions. Perhaps you need to learn to lighten up and just accept that not everyone will be thrilled to see Mamma Mia! It certainly was not for folks that are not acclimated with musicals or romantic comedies. Saying stuff like:
    “This is what entertainment is about Mr. Dude – emotion and feeling! Sorry that you just didn’t get it and most probably you don’t get much of life either.” This kind of remedial crap does nothing but make you a look like a complete ignoramus. Just because you are a musical entertainer does not mean that the world shares your opinion on what entertainment is. Perhaps widenening you are the one who needs to get a life and stop getting into others’ business over something as trivial as a silly romantic comedy.

    By the way, the movie was not made for guys who have tastes like the Dude. Does that make his opinions invalid? Absolutely not. The film producers should have considered that many husbands would be dragged into seeing this by their spouses. I AM NOT SAYING THAT ALL HUSBANDS WERE RELUCTANT TO SEE THIS MOVIE. That being said, I will end it here. It says in the bloody comment policy for NO PERSONAL ATTACKS. Clearly reading/comprehension and higher level reasoning is out of the picture when it comes to opinionated arguments about Mamma Mia on this blog.

    Not everyone liked this movie. Learn to live with it.


  • melissa hackett

    the movie was the best movie everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. i absolutely loved it. amanda seyfield who plays sophie is a very good singer. and my mam is a big fan of pierce brosnan and also mamma mia.

  • kevin

    Oh come on this has got to be one of the worst movies ever. The only time it works is when the music is played. Streep, et al are dreadful. Even the music is upbeat as if to get the whole thing finished quickly.
    And hat about the morals, Streep plays a slut who screws three men in three nights and doesn’t even know who the father of the bride is. May be I am old fashioned, but if she had contracted HIV/AIDS/ STDs what then?
    I couldn’t watch it and I love Abba music.

  • ER

    I am 21 and my mum is 48, we both love ABBA music and were really looking forward to seeing the film….
    unfortunatley we both thought the film was terrible. I understand that people like to watch light hearted fun, so why not turn to disney? they have this down to a tee… They can pull off adult humour without the younger generation catching on…which I feel is what the producers of ‘Mamma Mia’ were trying to achieve.
    As mentioned, I am 21 so close to the age of the the 20 year old daughter, I am also engaged to be married next year. However, unfortunatley I found the whole scenerio quite disturbing with her prancing about on a yacht in her swimming costume with 3 older men (all of whom do not know at this point that she could be their daughter…)
    It is a real shame that there was not a better story line for this film, because I honestly feel it could have been so good with the right script and characters…
    I would just like to add (before I get those shooting me down to be a critic), that I do not usually ‘hate’ films like this, so it is really quite unusual for me (and my mum) to feel so strongly. I just can not see any ground breaking filmogrphy here as to why it should be such hit??

  • MT

    I watched it yesterday… a smile on my face through out the movie… it is a very lively and joyful movie… the writer is extremely smart in putting all the song together…so creative! Thanks to Catherine Johnson. I am entertained! The actor and actress are trying their very best.. of course, I believe the director can do better… Well, nothing is perfect…anyway, I am looking forward to the up coming Musical Shows at Istana Budaya Malaysia this Dec 🙂

  • SomeOnePlzSaveMe

    I would walk out of this movie even on an airplane. The itchiest of wool sweaters could not make me squirm more than watching this atrocious instrument of torture. Gitmo detainees should have been forced to see this: “I’ll talk, I’ll talk…I know where Bin Laden is hiding!! I’ll take you there right now if you please let me out of this Allah-forsaken theatre!!” I mean no disrespect to the female audience for which this flick is intended. For years, your men have forced you to watch testosterone-laced films like Rambo, Hamburger Hill, and Alien versus Predator. Ladies…this was your revenge and you got us back! Please, please…can we now say we’re even? Oooh, please…I’m sorry Ack!!

  • Cruise

    I know I’m late writing my opinion about this horrible movie. I rented the DVD. I am in (almost) complete agreement with “The Dude” on this one (accept the gay men part). Even gay men will see that this is a piece of dreck! EW.com wrote a review on this and made a comment about Meryl Streep’s red rimmed eyes. It was probably because of her balling during the entire shoot, in disbelief that she signed on to such a piece of crap. I say look at it this way Meryl. Faye Dunaway is a gay icon now because of her over the top performance in Mommie Dearest. Maybe by some streak of incredible luck, this movie will become a cult classic, though I REALLY doubt it. I couldn’t even get through the entire movie and I like musicals. Anyone with any real musical background would have found this excruciating. 007 needs to stick with acting and not singing. He was so off key, my dog started howling! My cats ran to the basement! And Meryl, being such a fantastic actress, how she ever could have signed up for this is beyond me. Attacker, attack at will but this has got to be the worst movie of 2008. Just my opinion.

  • Eric

    Well, what about the gay scene that suddenly pops up in the aisle…? Colin Firth Suddenlt finds a soul mate in just 24 hour (whoever the other man was)……

    But I am sure girls who day dream really likes the movie.

  • Webb

    I agree with all the bad comments about this movie. But that’s the point. This is not the kind of movie in which everything is perfectly well done. The flaws in this movie makes it a jewel. You’ll never see Meryl acted crazy like that and Biers sang like that. And that makes it a keeper in your DVD collection if you like these two actors.

  • Cameron

    I think it was an 8 / 10. I have done some very novice singing and acting and remember, Singing is really hard and it was certainly done well. Amanda seyfried has a really polished voice. I think she may want to consider it as a second career. I didn’t detect vocal harmonizers, which is why many pop stars don’t sound good “unplugged.” since I also have a daughter who is about 1/2 grown up it was pretty poignant. Parts were maybe too corny bit I don’t mind because I’m kind of like that.