If you loved the show on stage, you’ll adore the movie. If you didn’t care for the show on stage, you’ll hate the movie. At least I did.
But thankfully for the producers, there have been many more people who love the stage show than didn’t care for it, so I’m sure the movie of Mamma Mia! will thrive at theaters this summer.
For me, every flaw of the stage show was only magnified in the adaptation, namely that the characters burst into song (literally, they do burst on a number of occasions, which provided for a number of unplanned guffaws from some people in the audience) and proceed to sing and sing about emotions either already covered in the dialogue or peripheral to the events in the story. Because of this, the entire middle section of the movie stands still for a selection of ABBA songs to be woven into the plot, stretching out the already thin story until you want to get up . . . and not to dance. The most curious choice of all is the re-arrangement of songs to extend the denouement. Instead of ending with the wedding, followed by “I Have a Dream,” we get a pointless “When All is Said and Done” and Rosie’s pursuit of Bill with “Take a Chance on Me.”
Many critics have already noted the bland choreography (which crosses into embarrassing proportions as Sky’s chorus boy pals dance around in flippers on a dock, which seemed funny on stage but extraordinarily awkward and, coupled with flexing muscles and acrobatics in speedos, more than just a little non-straight on screen). To be fair, though, the cast of non-singers do well with songs that don’t require great voices. Pierce Brosnan certainly seems more fit for Sam than many other Hollywood names ever were for the singing parts they were cast in, like Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, Gerard Butler as the Phantom, or Amanda Bynes as Penny Pingleton. Meryl Streep actually does quite well (better than what is demonstrated in the clips on television), and actually acts the songs, really pulling out all the stops for a top-notch “The Winner Takes It All,” which is beautifully photographed. In fact, Streep is stunning in all her non-Botoxed glory and, in her wedding day dress, far outshines the well-cast Amanda Seyfried as Sophie. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, as Streep’s fellow Dynamos, round out the strongest links in casting.
The showing I saw was pretty much packed (and a matinee earlier in the day had been sold out), but I’ll be curious to see what the box office drop is in its second weekend, to see if there are more of me out there or more of the Mamma Mia! fans. I suspect there are more Mamma Mia! fans.
As for me, well, I’m good on Mamma Mia! for many years. Midway through the movie, I’ll admit that I was actually embarrassed to be sitting in a theater full of people watching this movie, and I kind of hoped none of my former students—who all already know my affinity for musicals—would see me walking out. I would have had no problem with, say, The Princess Diaries 2 or She’s the Man, but Mamma Mia!, that’s a different story.
the Broadway Mouth
July 20, 2008