Leave 'em burning and then you're gone
Mamma Mia! is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, and Christine Baranski. It is based on the 1999 musical of the same name and features songs from the pop group, ABBA.
No number of words that I put here in this review can accurately describe the agony that I went through, forcing myself to re-watch the 2008 musical smash hit, Mamma Mia!, a movie that has the incredibly rare honor of being a film that I, without question, hate, and I mean hate with boiling hot rage. It's not just that the movie is a bad musical movie: featuring ear-damaging singing, no sensible plot, and little to no character development whatsoever. It's more about how the movie goes about trying to be the most god-damn feel-good, super-duper-fun, summer musical event you'll ever see, and what the movie sacrifices in order to try and accomplish that goal. Mamma Mia! falls way way short of its primary goal, ending up as a messy and inexplicably annoying jukebox musical that I pray and hope to never ever ever ever EVER have to sit through again.
I have no intentions of knocking ABBA, the group who originally conceived a lot of the songs present in the film. While I am not a "fan" of ABBA, I've listened to enough of their music to understand they are a talented bunch whose music is good listening for anyone. But when someone else uses your music in a failed attempt to make a movie in which everyone is grinning ear to ear and acting like they're having so much freaking fun, if I were ABBA, I would sue everyone involved in the production and never let them sing any of my music ever again.
So anyway, Mamma Mia's plot takes place on the Greek island of Kalokairi, where 20-year-old Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is soon to be married to her fiance, Sky (Dominic Cooper). In the opening scene, we see Sophie send out three different letters. Sophie reveals to her bridesmaids that the three letters were addressed to three men, all of whom could possibly be her father. The three men are Irish-American architect Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), Swedish writer Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard), and British banker Harry Bright (Colin Firth). Sophie is hoping to surprise her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), with the surprise appearances of these three men. When the three men arrive, Sophie bonds with them and learns more about them, hoping to uncover the truth about which one might be her father.
The mystery of who Sophie's father might be is the bulk of the plot, but when anything related to "who's your daddy" isn't happening, people are just singing and dancing and trying to have fun. In other words, there's just not much going on.
- As much as I want to say nothing in this film works and proceed to give it an F grade right here and now, I just can't do it. Because there is one, and only one, thing in this entire movie that is passable, and that, not surprisingly, is Meryl Streep. Streep's character, Donna, is the only one in the entire film who has some semblance of development, as the movie briefly explores what goes through Donna's mind and how she was like back in the day. Donna runs a worn-down hotel that puts a financial burden on her, and when she does find out about her three former lovers appearing on the island, she is given a painful reminder of the wildly free spirit she was back in the day, jumping from boy to boy before giving birth to Sophie. Too bad that the movie doesn't go much farther than that for her character, as Donna falls victim to the ongoing festivities on the island the day before the wedding and gives in to all the fun everyone is having. Of the three potential fathers, Sam is the one who most reaches out to Donna, but why him and not the other two is anyone's guess. I felt so bad for Meryl Streep the entire movie, because she is so much better than this, but she ends up being brought down by all of the shit happening around her.
- Now then, full speed ahead on what I hate the most about this movie more than any other egregious wrong it contains: Mamma Mia! wants to be so energetic and so happy to the point that it feels like everyone is on a titanic sugar rush and doesn't care what goes wrong along the way. The movie does everything in its power to raise your energy level and give you the most feel-good movie experience you'll ever have, with characters jumping up and down like little kids waking up on Christmas morning, sporting smiles that even The Joker would find unhealthy, and attempting to go full-on apeshit whenever any dancing is involved with the singing. Mamma Mia! does all of this to such an absurd degree, that we never get the sense that there is any bit of drama or conflict going on between its characters, because everything is washed out by all of the enjoyment that everyone is supposedly having. Everything: the story, the characters, the acting, the comedy, the writing, the whatever else you want to throw in the pot; it's all diminished at the expense of extreme ebullience.
This is especially evident in moments such as when the movie jumps from one song ("Lay All Your Love On Me") to another ("Super Trouper") without any kind of talky break in between. Then you have certain songs ("Does Your Mother Know" and "Take a Chance on Me") that are purely dedicated to frivolous matters between certain side characters. I guarantee you, if you skip over these songs, you will not lose track of anything that's going on. And then, the icing on this crap cake is some of the completely over-the-top dance moves going on during some of the songs, such as the other members of Sky's bachelor party dancing on a deck wearing nothing but swim trunks and scuba fins while proceeding to do some Super Mario style moves while singing. There's also the massive parade of women that forms in the span of about two minutes during the "Dancing Queen" bit, and I do not care one bit what anyone thinks; the "Dancing Queen" scene sucks. It just freaking sucks. You've got an old geezer playing a piano on a boat while the women make their way to a deck, in which they wave their arms around like hyperactive cheerleaders.
It is all unpleasant dreck. Nothing else.
- Oh God, the singing. Now not all of the singing is bad. Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried are just fine (Streep starts to go downhill by the end, but there's much more good than bad for her), but holy moly, Pierce Brosnan. He tries to woo Donna with his love, but instead sounds like a wild animal being slowly run over by a garbage truck. Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth aren't exactly knocking it out of the park either, and you would think at least one of the three possible dads would be a decent singer. Nope, none of them get a pass, certainly not Brosnan. No amount of Autotune was going to save him from this disaster.
I'm going to state it once more, because I want to be 100 percent certain that this statement is present somewhere on this review: I hate Mamma Mia! I hate this movie with ever fiber of my being. It sacrifices every major asset that a film requires simply for the sake of trying to slap this big silly smile across your face because oh it's cute, it's funny, it's trying to be the most fun thing you'll ever watch, but completely forgetting that you can't just look happy and act happy and think everyone is going to be on board with it. How can I be appreciative and maybe also sympathetic of a character if I know hardly anything about them? How can I be interested in anything a character is saying or doing if it appears that nothing is troubling them and that they don't have a care in the world? How in the world does this movie think that just because someone else might be having fun automatically means that that fun is going to translate over to me and I too will be having as much fun as the characters in this movie?
Mamma Mia! is not at all fun, and it is not at all cute, or charming, or inspiring. It's annoyance to the one thousandth degree and a horrid misfire on so many levels. Never in my lifetime have I seen a musical as horrendous and unbearable as this one. You have no idea how torturous it was to have to sit through all 109 minutes that is this movie over again, and if by some miracle on God's green Earth that I have to sit through this movie again, well, I hope I can find the strongest alcoholic beverage I can find. And if you were curious as to what my reaction was when I heard that the movie was getting a sequel later this year, allow me to leave you with this:
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