starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Julie Walters
screenplay by Catherine Johnson
directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Put simply, despite all the hype about Mamma Mia! you can very safely give this unfortunate movie a miss. Briefly, an aging 1970s disco queen living on a Greek island is preparing to celebrate her daughter’s wedding. She invites her old disco buddies from her wild youth to her island hotel. It should be an idyllic paradise, and it would be with a better script. The characters break into song and dance with their joy of reunion. Blah, blah, blah ...
The movie is thin because there’s hardly any story at all, and weak because the premise is so preposterous.
Now, there are four problems with this. First, the actors do their own singing, and they make an admirable effort - like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - but they do it SO BADLY! I was cringing and grimacing. Better to let trained singers do the singing - or, use the original ABBA recordings and then dub it into the film. Second, ABBA’s music sucks. It always did. ABBA defenders say their tunes are catchy and fun, and the harmonies of the two female lead singers, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog, made the music angelic. But no, disco sucks! It always did. Here’s what’s good about the 1970s: Jesus Christ, Superstar, the imprisonment of Charles Manson, the resignation of Richard Nixon, the Fall of Saigon, Monty Python, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Roxy Music, Blondie, and Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. Third, the movie is thin and it’s weak. It is weak because there is hardly any story at all. The bride, without her mother knowing, invites three of her Mom’s old lovers to her wedding in the hope of discovering which one of them is her father. It’s good as a potential comedy plot, but not as a musical because the music does nothing for the story from that angle. And, the movie is weak because the premise is so preposterous. Fourth, these old 1970s disco clubbers getting together simply exposes their true character - I mean, their chronic moral bankruptcy and intellectual paucity. They were morally bankrupt youngsters then, and now they are morally bankrupt middle-agers. At least when the former 60s radicals reunited for the funeral of a friend in The Big Chill it was a gathering of thinking people with ideas and convictions. But the gathering of old friends in Mamma Mia! is just a gathering of empty, narcissistic, promiscuous bunnies, and they prove it to us with their silly songs, their stupid dances, and their self-centered, pornographic conversation.
Even in middle age these ABBA fans continue to be self-indulgent, orgiastic nymphs and it’s not appealing. They are not celebrating and affirming life - that at least would be a little redeeming - so much as aping melancholy for their former fecundity and acting real silly. In many ways the daughter is more mature than the mother. So, please ignore Mamma Mia! and advise your friends to do the same.