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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.79%
Worth A Look: 7.69%
Average: 14.1%
Pretty Bad: 20.51%
Total Crap35.9%

4 reviews, 54 user ratings

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Mamma Mia!
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by brianorndorf

"If ya dig ABBA, there's no reason to miss this"
5 stars

It was only a year ago when I suffered utter disdain for “Hairspray,” a shrill, overdirected musical comedy that I found merciless in its unpleasantness. Turns out all it was missing was the music of ABBA; “Mamma Mia!” is the same vintage of shrill, overdirected musical comedy, yet it breaks free of self-conscious bondage to kick off a suitably electrifying big-screen pajama party of dancing, singing, and devotion to all things Europop.

Working herself into a stupor trying to hold her idyllic Greek island hotel together, Donna (Meryl Streep) is preparing for the wedding of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), inviting her old friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) down for the celebration. However, Sophie has plans of her own, sending invitations to three of her mother’s past lovers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard) to find out which man is her real father. Donna, thunderstruck over seeing these eager candidates back in her life, immediately panics and spends the long weekend trying to avoid a total meltdown as the rush of memories overwhelms her and complicates the festivities.

Approaching “Mamma” is a problematical prospect: to enjoy it to the fullest extent you must a) love ABBA and b) have some working knowledge of the Broadway show on which this film is based. Without these components in place, “Mamma” is going to feel endless, dreadfully over-caffeinated, and perhaps downright childish. It would be a dream for everyone to participate in the picture and come out with an engorged heart and a Google map to the nearest glitter boutique, but let’s get real here: “Mamma” is not for every taste.

Gussied up and streamlined for its big-screen debut, director Phyllida Lloyd (who directed the stage version as well) has refocused the colossal energy of the piece, attempting to strategically portion it out for painless multiplex consumption. In any incarnation, “Mamma” is a bullet train of candied romantic stupefaction, lending inescapable yearn to the characters through the application of bubblegum love songs, set against an impossibly heavenly Greek locale. On the stage, the musical strived to evoke Donna’s trials with swift timing, song cues that preyed upon the element of surprise, and bellowing audience reaction. The film doesn’t share such comfort, and while it hasn’t been exhaustively reimagined, it’s been pleasingly filled out to create a more encompassing experience for all.

What this “Mamma” has to deal with are bona fide cinema stars, not comprehensively-trained theater actors, so “Mamma” pumps up the soundtrack, offering improved sonic depth to help out the less musically-inclined talent. Make no mistake, performers like Streep and Seyfried belt out the hits like heavyweight champs, able to follow the twisty ABBA melodies without being thrown off course. Streep especially winds up for the tunes, hurling her whole body into every lyric while Lloyd sprints around trying to find angles to best beautify the performance. The boys can barely keep up with her, but I was particularly smitten with Brosnan, who doesn’t possess golden pipes (quite the opposite, actually), but gives his singing a fighting shot, helped out significantly by the enhanced soundscape and the contact high from Streep’s keyed up performance.

Special praise must be reserved for Seyfried, who captures Sophie’s bewildered state of panic and gentle paternal desires with uncharacteristic polish, considering the actress has previously made a career for herself in unremarkable teen fluff. It’s the first adult performance from Seyfried, and she anchors the picture with a small, doe-eyed window of emotional reality. It’s vulnerable, stirring work I hope to see more of. Seyfried nearly steals the movie away from the pros.

“Mamma” is all about vitality, and the picture is legitimately exhilarating at times, turning songs such as “Dancing Queen” into massive island-wide dance numbers, or giving the critical “Voulez-Vous” number a whirling quality to match the chaotic requirements of the scene. Lloyd isn’t an innovative filmmaker, but her instincts and history with the show serve the film extraordinarily well, underlining the participatory nature of the production at crucial intervals, making sure the audience is still along for the ride. However, her inexperience with filmmaking hurts the picture’s early going, as scenes with Donna and best pals Rosie (Walters) and Tanya (Baranski) are sold with a blood-curdling shrillness that was expected on stage, but odious on the screen. Trust me, while the initial moments are played for maximum sun-baked squeak, the picture eventually catches on and settles down to a more harmonious roar.

Of course “Mamma” lurches for the throat with its high-flying, bell-bottomed feistiness (a quality that extends into the blinding end credits). It’s a musical hell-bent on extorting smiles; an infectious piece of 1970’s hokum played at a vociferous, yet agreeable pitch. “Mamma” is intended only for the open-hearted, as cynics will find no island of comfort here. Watching the film rear back and launch constant fireworks of joy is a wonderful thing to behold, positioning itself as an ideal summer diversion to counteract all the cartoons and superheroes. “Mamma Mia!” is a heavy dose of syrup, but it stomps proudly and effectively, delivering huge on promises of ABBA-approved bliss.

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originally posted: 07/19/08 00:19:56
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User Comments

4/03/19 Ed Riddick A shame the best singing is relegated to end credits (Thank You for the Music) 3 stars
7/10/18 Joesmaltz Horrible ‘ painful to try and watch. And I like ABBA 1 stars
6/11/18 brian Full-on chick flick, beautiful scenery Including Amanda Seyfried. See once. 3 stars
10/28/14 Irene This crap has not improved with age; just the opposite 1 stars
8/22/13 Randolph Carter Donna is a slut. Lets make a movie about a woman who can't keep her legs closed! 2 stars
5/21/12 Cary Grant Hey Firth, too bad there's no transplant for graceful. 1 stars
4/04/12 Gene Kelly Colin Firth is spastic. Don't ever pollute movies again with your dancing.. 2 stars
3/25/11 the dork knight 2 Colin Firth's idea of dancing is as scary as Amanda Siegfried's eyes. 1 stars
3/07/11 musical lover a good traveloge...repulsive acting/repulsive movie. 1 stars
3/04/11 Samantha Congrats Colin Firth. See what happens when you attempt to sing and dance? Dud. 1 stars
2/26/11 Barbara Colin Firth, you stink! 3 stars
1/13/11 Linda G Shame on the entire cast ...shame, shame, shame 1 stars
9/23/10 Emily Sand James Band & Mr. Darcy embarress themselves for the money 2 stars
8/10/10 the dork knight Great Caeser's Shit! Pierce Brosnan's "singing" is something to behold. 3 stars
3/11/10 Rita P Want to see something w/C Firth worth watching? Once again NOT HERE! 3 stars
1/08/10 Carol Miles SCENES THAT SHD BE FUNNY - NOT FUNNY 1 stars
1/02/10 art rated G FOR GARBAGE! 1 stars
12/25/09 jan laclede Awful everything but the island 2 stars
8/16/09 Christine C Best movie ever 5 stars
8/13/09 Deedee No fan of the movie, but Marc Kandel's review is badly-written, offensive misogynistic crap 2 stars
8/03/09 RLan If you like ABBA this is a must see. If you don't, its a must avoid. 3 stars
7/19/09 Cat Smith A chick filck musical? I'm a chick and hated it. What a horrible film. 1 stars
5/13/09 art the only saving grace,was AMANDA SEYFRIED! 2 stars
2/16/09 Kat Does anyone else think brianorndorf is the most braindead director on this site? 2 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. its not an oscar film, its a chick flick musical! GOSH stop the criticism :P 4 stars
1/04/09 Tony Dimwitted dawdlers & grim Grecian islanders bark out ABBA's dogwhistle ditties 1 stars
10/25/08 Gloria D. It was fun but not my favorite 3 stars
10/05/08 Little Pissed Sunshine Too Amanda Seyfried character bows out gracefully from a story better left unbowed-out-of. 3 stars
10/04/08 Jenny Tullwartz Well, Susan, THANK GOD it's not Moulin Rouge or Chicago! 4 stars
10/03/08 Etheridge Hoogendijk Amanda Seyfried(&whole MEAN GIRLS cast) may've given selves harder act than they can follow 3 stars
10/03/08 Doug Graves OK but Amanda Seyfried was so better forcasting weather w/ her boobs & laughing at diarrhea 3 stars
9/14/08 Armando Verga Nothing survives to Abba music (music?) 1 stars
9/08/08 Alan C. I'm a straight 46 year old male, and have seen it 7 times. (Sing along version 4 of them.) 5 stars
9/02/08 BruceD Excellent, excellent, excellent! The movie was fun and fast. Great actors, great sports! 5 stars
8/10/08 Enid Gamvros I hated it. Too noisy with a silly plot. Pierce Brosnan should stick to Bond 1 stars
8/09/08 R.W. Welch Somewhat hyper and thinly plotted. Has a few good tunes. 3 stars
8/07/08 MrSpacely It cost 10 bucks here. Ouch. Thanks for the fitting "From Justin to Kelly" reference. 2 stars
8/07/08 Ameisha What a waste of $8.50! 1 stars
7/29/08 mary mcmuray I liked the movie and the music but I see what they mean about everyone being too happy. 4 stars
7/28/08 LeeAnn Even for a musical, the plot was too far-fetched, especially the ending. 2 stars
7/27/08 Kathleen Brosnan was painful to listen to but some moments of fun 4 stars
7/27/08 AnnieG Unless you are a 13 year old girl or an ABBA nut, don't waste your time! 1 stars
7/27/08 Richard Poorly directed and edited, only a couple of quieter numbers saved this from being 1 star 2 stars
7/27/08 scott omg i loved the movie cant wait till it comes out on dvd i will watch it over and over agai 5 stars
7/27/08 Pete Trashing a movie because you don't like the music? Lame!. The movie was great 5 stars
7/26/08 Beth This was a lovely piece of candy sprinked with cheese and wrapped in happiness. 5 stars
7/26/08 jessica fullerton This was lots of fun. Even poor Brosnan. This reviewer should lighten up. 4 stars
7/24/08 Andrew I don't think this reveiwer even saw the same movie I did the movie was excellent. 5 stars
7/23/08 Lennart Elfgren I enjoyed the movie and reacted favourably to all the things the reviewer did not like. 5 stars
7/21/08 Samantha Pruitt it's really fun, most likely if you're of the female persuasion,i liked it! 4 stars
7/20/08 George Barksdale I was and still am a ABBA music fan and loved thyis movie 5 stars
7/20/08 Jayson One of the best films I've seen so far... 5 stars
7/19/08 Susan Lee It's a fun musical. Not Moulin Rouge or Chicago but the great cast makes it worthwhile 5 stars
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  18-Jul-2008 (PG-13)



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