Jul 14, 2008

[Movies] Mamma Mia!

I can't quite explain what made me come to love ABBA. It could be the exposure I got from my mother in terms of their music since had a general appreciation for them or maybe there was just something about their music that elicited smiles from me and drove me to appreciate their works as a whole. Whatever the case may be, I am an ABBA fan and combining that with my love for musical theater means that it was only a matter of time before I'd get around to Mamma Mia! the musical.

I almost got to see the stage production while I was in California last May, but then by the time we got around to trying to schedule a time to go see it, the tour group had left for a farther part of California that it no longer became feasible for us to go and see it. Thus the next best thing for me was to wait for the movie, which finally opened last week. Of course my partner and I were pretty excited to see it and we finally found time to do just that the very first Sunday after its local release.

Mamma Mia! is not a musical about the band, ABBA, but is instead a story told through the existing songs of ABBA. Musicals typically require original music to be written in order to help the characters express what they're feeling or thinking at the time. In this case, they didn't go looking for new songs but instead looked at all the songs already created by the group and tried to craft a story that weaves all the songs together. Given that kind of a goal, naturally the story isn't the greatest in the world, but that's not really the point of the musical and by the same vein it isn't the point of the movie either.

The movie certainly had a lot going for it in terms of cast - it managed to snag the legendary Meryl Streep as Donna, the mother of soon-to-be-wed Sophie (Amanda Seyfield, previously the weather-forecasting Mean Girl). Who could have predicted that she'd be able to carry more than just a decent tune but would in fact bring her same acting prowess to her interpretation of the music? Seyfield was also pretty good in her performance as a genuinely confused daughter trying to figure out which of the three men she's invited to her wedding really is her biological father. Of course the trio of potential fathers was pretty strong as well given they were played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard.

I was also surprised at how well Julie Walters and Christine Baranski complemented Meryl Streep in their roles as Rosie and Tanya respectively. As a trio they may appear rather old and not suited for elaborate singing and dancing, but then they managed to convey the only kind of energy that the truly young at heart can consistently muster at any age.

What really drives this film is the music and how much everyone appreciated and embraced all that is ABBA. The group was never meant to be serious and certainly doesn't fit your typical kind of musical either. There's an intrinsic campiness that comes with the 70's and most especially ABBA's music. You can tell the cast and crew enjoyed making the movie and they themselves enjoyed how silly things get at certain parts of the film. It has everything you expect from an over-the-top camp-fest - large and elaborate dance numbers, characters randomly bursting into song at odd moments and of course a general and healthy dose of good-natured fun.

While it's not necessarily a requirement to be an ABBA fan or to even know the songs in order to enjoy this film, it certainly helps. If you don't have an ABBA background, then you need to understand the kind of campiness and silly fun that the group represents for us from a social history point of view and it's not meant to be taken seriously. If you do love their music, then you're bound to enjoy the movie even more as you get genuinely surprised at how the various songs are introduced into the film and the kind of messages they're made to deliver for the characters.

ABBA is a fun and light movie that certainly helps clear ones head of even the most stressful work experiences or whatever. Just suspend judgment as you enter and leave your skepticism and reason at the door and just let your mind be carried away by the music as the movie runs its course.

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  1. I don't think I've sang so much inside a movie house as I did when I watched Mamma Mia. For that alone, it gets a high rating from me. It's the ultimate feel-good movie.

  2. BTW, I love how your comments section work.

  3. @Misterhubs

    I felt the same way! It helped that we watched it with a good friend of ours who enjoyed the music as well - just hearing them start off the next song with a few choice words and a hint of the melody was enough to get us laughing or grinning.

    As for the comments, visit http://drafts.blogger.com/ - it's an experimental feature. Nice, yes?

  4. Ang Daya. Considering we are only 3 hours away from Manila, movies shown here are virtually 2-3 weeks late.

    Things like that makes me feel more left behind & disconnected from the 'updated' world. Ang daya. LOL

    Haven't seen the film yet but I've been listening to Mamma Mia's Soundtrack. Lemme just say that Meryl Streep's voice is unexpectedly nice. Don't you think? I wish a DVD copy of this movie will be available for download soon. Can't wait!

    btw, I think this is my first post to the Geeky Guide. Hahaha yay to that! :)

  5. @Jeyson

    Oo nga ano? I never realized that. =P

    Meryl was surprisingly good, that I'll totally agree with you there. I have the movie soundtrack as well but for the longest time I've already had ABBA Gold on the computer. Longtime ABBA fan, haha