Anyone who reads my reviews on a regular basis is familiar (if not irritated) with me talking about my kids. However, you might notice that I don’t talk much about my wife.
No, this isn’t because she’s heard one too many comments about my trysts with the Jessica troika (Alba, Biel and Simpson). Rather it’s because she doesn’t favor herself much of a film critic. In many ways, she’s the perfect audience for the studios, in that she prefers to just experience a movie without analyzing it too much. Consequently, she probably enjoys more movies than I do.
She’s a fan of romantic comedies and other chick flicks. She also likes Broadway shows. So, it makes sense that I took her with me to the press screening of Mamma Mia! After all, I had taken her to the stage show a couple years ago on her birthday, and she absolutely loved it.
After seeing the big-screen adaptation, she looked over at me and said, “You’ve ruined me.”
When prompted for an explanation, she told me it was because she found herself overanalyzing the film. Even though she adored the stage production, there were some aspects of the film version of Mamma Mia! that didn’t quite sit well with her.
And a beautiful thing happened… we both agreed completely (which, for all you married folks out there, is a pretty rare event).
Here’s the consensus…
On the whole, the film version of Mamma Mia! was pretty faithful to the stage production. Some story elements were shifted a bit for the adaptation, but generally it was very close. However, with the translation to the screen, something was lost. Not a lot was lost, but enough to make the stage show a superior production.
Overall, the casting was good. Amanda Seyfried is adorable as the lead Sophie who invites three potential fathers to her wedding. The would-be dads (played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) did fine jobs, with the exception of some rough singing by Brosnan.. but at least he gets an A for effort.
The real sticking point for both me and my wife was Meryl Streep. Now, I realize that dissing Meryl Streep is like dissing Jesus to many movie buffs out there, but I was unimpressed. She seemed to forget that acting for screen shouldn’t be as big as acting in the theater. She doesn’t ruin the film, but I just didn’t connect with her… no matter how much she cried on cue.
The first hour of the film worked best. It gets rocky in the middle with forced slapstick, an out-of-place “Three’s Company” moment and a song that should have been left on the cutting room floor. By the end, the film gets its momentum back only to stumble again by giving us an extended Return of the King ending, complete with a two-number curtain call during the credits.
Still, this film is made for fans of the show… and fans of ABBA, I suppose. It’s a chick flick in many ways – from the romance to the show tunes. It’s no wonder that our illustrious Executive Editor Neil Miller wondered if he grew ovaries after discovering he enjoyed the movie.
Broadway junkies should love it as well. Like so many films we’ve seen this summer, this movie is for the fans, but I don’t see it bringing a lot of new viewers to the fold.
THE UPSIDE: Another faithful musical for those Broadway fans out there.
THE DOWSIDE: Meryl Streep’s a better actor than singer. Ditto for Pierce Bronson.
ON THE SIDE: If you do the math, Sophie was conceived in 1988, which makes the flower power phase not quite work in the film’s timeline.