I checked this 2008 film out on DVD to watch before attending a performance of the stage musical version at the Lincoln Community Playhouse here in town, just to remind myself of the plot — and had a blast watching it again. But, then, I’m a huge fan of the musical group ABBA, and their music infuses the film with a lot of its energy. It appears that most people have a “Love/Hate” relationship with this film/musical, usually tied into their appreciation of ABBA — I’ve run across very few people who are ambivalent about it. Personally, I love it — the huge cast of familiar movie stars — Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Amanda Seyfried and more, throw themselves into unexpectedly exuberant song and dance numbers in the midst of a bubbly and frothy soap-opera of a plot.
Both the movie and stage musical are what are known in the theater community as “Jukebox Musicals” — where a connective storyline is created to showcase a collection of an artist or group’s hit songs. Other shows in this genre from the 70s through the early 2000s would include Forever Plaid, Jersey Boys, Saturday Night Fever and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. In the past 10 years, this style of musical (both for film and stage) has exploded in popularity, with dozens of new shows/films making use of the format. Mamma Mia!, the 1998 stage musical, was one of the early ones.
Actors who you don’t normally expect to see singing do a remarkably good job, and seem to be having a huge amount of fun doing so. The story, in a nutshell — 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan is getting married in the Greek Isles, but was raised by a single mother who never told her who her father is. She wants to invite her father to give her away at her upcoming wedding, but in sneaking a read of her mom’s diary, she discovers her “Dad” could be one of three different men — Ben Carmichael, Bill Austin or Harry Bright. She invites them all to the wedding. When all three guys arrive on the remote Greek island where Sophie’s mom, Donna, owns and operates a taverna, the reunions aren’t necessary good experiences. Throw in Donna’s two old singing-group friends, Rosie and Tanya, and a bunch of the friendly locals, and you’ve got a festive atmosphere with lots of different emotions bubbling beneath the surface. Nearly every major character gets a moment to shine, both dramatically and musically. And around 20 ABBA hits get to take center stage in moving the plot forward — set in the late 90s, but featuring music from the late 70s. An emotional highlight is Donna confronting Ben musically with “The Winner Takes It All”. Other highlights are “Does Your Mother Know”, “Slipping Through My Fingers”, “Voulez-vous”, “Super Trouper”, “Dancing Queen” and the titular “Mamma Mia!” If you can accept the premise and the crazy casting, this is a terrific, feel-good film. If you can’t get past those initial obstacles, this is not the movie for you! [NOTE: The 2008 film was so successful that a sequel is coming out in the Summer of 2018, reuniting the entire original film’s cast!]
[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Mamma Mia! Film Musical web site ]
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library
Bennett Martin Public Library
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