Mamma Mia! (2008)
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd
Here I go again…Mamma Mia!, the greatest cinematic achievement in music since Grease, is the heartfelt love story from director Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady). Starring 2 Oscar winners, 1 nominee, and a load of other familiar faces, the musical, based on the works of ABBA, acts as part romance, part comedy, part mystery.
When Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) wedding date to her beau, Sky (Dominic Cooper), approaches, she designs a plan to invite her father to the ceremony. The problem is, however, that she doesn’t know who her father is, as her mother (a perfect Meryl Streep) has raised her solo for all her 20 years. When the three possible dads (her mother got around) arrive on the small Greek island on which the women live, they shock Sophie’s mother and force her to recall the times she spent with each one of them. On her wedding day, the truth comes out about her father, but does it surprise anyone? Will the wedding go off without a hitch?
Filled with sweet ABBA goodness, the movie offers adaptations to 22 amazing songs. Sung by Streep, Seyfried, as well as the three baby daddies—Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgärd—the songs range from “Dancing Queen” to “Super Trouper,” “Chiquitita” to “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Brosnan’s singing is so awful; it’s comical, as he sings songs like “SOS.” But what can you expect? And thanks to Autotune, it’s not near as bad as it would have been had he been in something twenty years ago. Streep has great emotion and an impressive vocal range, even with Autotune, as she sings songs like “The Winner Takes it All.” Seyfried, younger and therefore understandably better at voice control, is brilliant as she sings songs like “I Have a Dream.”
Choreography is hysterical during such renditions as “Lay All Your Love on Me” with the flipper men, and “Voulez Vous.” I’ll go on record now…listen up…and say that two scenes—the flower-power “Dancing Queen” scene in which Greek women of all ages and sizes inspirationally join Streep in an anthem of feminism, and the climactic “I Do, I Do, I Do” scene that involves Brosnan, a tuba, and a musical priest—are two of the very best scenes in musical history. These scenes, as well as others, rise above to become more than the music and either cause uncontrollable goosebumps, laughter, or both and make for a fun viewing experience. Grease’s final scene and Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I Were a Rich Man” come to mine as other comparable instances.
The presence of the respectable King George VI, James Bond, and Julia Child—erm…you know what I mean—add to the decorum of any film, even a movie musical. At one point, Firth’s character addresses himself as “Bright, Harry Bright,” just mere feet from Brosnan, the former 007, in quite an irony. The men add the comedic gusto to the film, perhaps due to their respective accents and renown.
As the credits roll, the cast performs positively hysterical versions of “Dancing Queen” and one of my favorites, “Waterloo” involving purple, pink, and blue costumes for the men as well as the women.
“When all is said and done,” Mamma Mia! remains an amazing example of a musical, for ABBA fans and non-fans alike. Its upbeat viewing experience, hilarious yet distinguished cast, and 22 fabulous (did I just use that word?) musical numbers make Mamma Mia! one of the best, and my absolute favorite, movie musicals of all-time. It’s the cinematic version of a warm embrace.