Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Mamma Mia!

Review by Rebecca Roth

Maybe it’s because I’m female… Maybe it’s because I love ABBA… Either way, Mamma Mia! is a completely fun movie.  

British playwright Catherine Johnson has achieved a monumental smash hit on Broadway with Mamma Mia! in a theatrical format, and in what is quickly becoming a (good) trend, its been transformed into peppy musical on the big screen. Johnson somehow quite smartly amalgamated components that have been unpopular on their own, into a winning combination – ABBA (who doesn’t get made fun of for liking ABBA?) and the laughable film Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), with a slight twist.

The story is fairly simple, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married and the only thing missing from her life is a father. After secretly reading her mother’s diary, she discovers that she has three potential dads, and without telling anyone she invites them all to her wedding. Meanwhile her middle-aged, and still single, mother (Meryl Streep) is not quite so eager to see her former beaus. Hilarity ensues.

It is obvious from the onset that Seyfried is the only one with any sort of musical aptitude, the rest of the cast simply warbles along. As someone with some very defined musical standards, I was honestly surprised to find myself enjoying the music, when it was quite blatantly terrible singing (Pierce Brosnan, I’m lookin’ at you!). The simplicity and lack of professional quality, however, actually ends up heartwarming and endearing.

As with all musicals, there is a moral to the story, as in the end Sophie, who wanted to learn her father’s identity, instead finds her own. The music fits ideally into the dialogue, the plot is refreshingly airy, the scenery is beautiful, and the tale will make you warm and fuzzy inside.

3 ½ / 5 stars


Review by Matthew Adams

At first you might be a little put off on a guy reviewing a musical aimed towards female audiences. But in actuality, I like musicals. I like the especially musicals from the 1970's and 1980's like Rocky Horror Picture Show and the recent Hairspray.

This film is based upon the famed jukebox musical of the same name formed from the music of ABBA, the popular Swedish pop group from the 1970's.  The story is about a young girl named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who lives with her mother on a Greek vacation resort owned by her mother (Meryl Streep). In her lifetime, she has never known who her father was and she has never bothered to find out. Until now. You see, she is getting married and she plans to invite the father that she never knew. One problem: there are three possible fathers, an architect living in the U.S. (Pierce Brosnan), an English banker (Colin Firth) and a Swedish adventurer (Stellan Skarsgard). They leave for Greece aboard Skarsgard's boat and become friends almost immediately, not knowing what is about to happen.

Later, Sophie meets the three men, and they seem to get along fine. However, when her mother is reunited with all of her ex-lovers simultaneously, all hell breaks loose. (Well, not really but you get the idea).  The rest, you’ll have to see (and enjoy) for yourself.

The last musical I remember seeing was last winter’s Across The Universe, which was just awful, and basically spat on the legacy of The Beatles. But here, things are much better, probably owing to the fact that they combined different cultures (American, English, Swedish, Greek) here without changing things drastically to fit just one culture.

Okay, Pierce Brosnan isn't much of a singer, but that's forgivable since you wouldn't expect James Bond to sing anyway!  Fortunately, most everyone else is good, including  Meryl, who seemed to be actually enjoyed herself rather than pining for another Oscar nomination.  I like it when she loosens up. Julie Walters is her usual funny self, Colin Firth is charming is usual and Stellan Skarsgard is a cool badass once again.

But Mamma Mia! succeeds from Amanda Seyfried's lead performance. She is a beautiful and talented and I can't wait to see more of her (which I figured that we would after Alpha Dog). Glowing review? Not really, since I prefer musicals where the songs are written for the musical (such as Hairspray) rather than vice versa, but I liked it anyway.

The film is directed by Phyllida Lloyd who makes her feature debut after years of working on stage. It is an impressive debut, and she proves that she can handle a studio film without previous feature film experience, unlike many of the people Hollywood hires today. She has a talent for directing musical scenes, as well as dramatic scenes. She is one who is passionate about her project and it shows. Which is not too surprising, because after all, she is the one who directed the original stage version, so it'had to work. And it does.

Rating: 4/5

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