I went to see Mama Mia! over the weekend. Twice. Once with my mom and stepdad while I was in Florida and once with a friend when I got home. It was a great ride both times.
I didn't know anything about the movie before seeing it the first time except who the stars are, the premise, and the music. And the ads I'd seen on TV. The theater was packed on Saturday afternoon. Mostly women, but a few intrepid husbands who probably had little choice. The audience laughed, guffawed, and cried. It's just a slightly bawdy romp with a blast from the ABBA past. If my folks are any indication, most of the people in the audience had never heard of ABBA and certainly didn't know the music.
Before I went to see the movie late Sunday afternoon with my friend, I'd read two reviews. Big mistake. The first was by someone online who'd made up his or her mind not to like it before he or she saw it though claimed to be an objective reviewer. The second was by Michael Phillips with whom I generally disagree anyway. I found myself looking to see if he had made any valid points from my perspective.
One of the reasons for seeing a movie more than once is to enjoy again whatever you thought were the good parts, but also to catch up on what you'd missed. Phillips thought the women's performance were more competitive than collegial. What?? I thought the performances were full of adlibs, which made it even funnier to me. Of course, in Phillips' defense, he had seen the stage play three times and had fallen into that trap of trying to compare a film version with a stage version. He mostly slammed the intrepid director, but doesn't seem to understand the whole giddiness of the music and the freedom that a film allows that a stage production cannot.
Is Meryl Streep a brilliant vocalist? I think the woman has pipes, but what do I know? I enjoyed her performances; I think the chemistry between Streep, Baranski, and Walters was engaging and fun. I think Baranski was impressive in her solo number. Can Pierce Brosnan sing? Well, technically, yes. Is he good at it? Nope, but he's never pretended to be a vocalist. They let him stay in the movie in spite of his lack of singing ability, didn't ask him to talk-sing through the film (think Rex Harrison and My Fair Lady) and just went with it. Which is sort of the spirit of the move.
I loved the campy Greek chorus and Walters' line about it being very Greek. I loved the silly epilogue. I loved that there was enough narrative for me to understand the basics of the plot, nothing was too overdone though I would have loved to have seen more of the dancing from a distance of the Voulez Vous number. I thought that the Dancing Queen number was raucous, fun, as exuberant as the music.
I had fun watching the movie. I was entertained. I was transported for a period of time which is what movies are supposed to be about. Is it silly, somewhat schlocky, somewhat campy. It's a musical based on ABBA songs. What do you expect? I mean, really.
I think movie critics need to stop taking themselves so freakin' seriously. I think the cast had way too much fun making this movie. I think it would be a riot if this became sort of camp, cult film so that the audiences sang the songs with the movie. I did, though not out loud and it would have been fun and it seemed like a lot of folks in the audiences of both showings I saw had a lot of fun. Tragic that, huh?