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Review: Mamma Mia!

Julie Walters, Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski

Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried

Phyllida Lloyd

Catherine Johnson



1hr 38mins


July 10


Mamma Mia! The Movie will no doubt find its audience. There will be women of a certain age who will embrace its joie de vivre. And there will be men of a certain persuasion who will adore its kitsch appeal. Beyond these two demographics, though, the movie skids into the arena of cultural car crash. While on stage the flimsy conceit of Catherine Johnson’s `story’ is bulked up with showbiz razzmatazz, on the big screen its thinness is stretched into diaphanous toffee.

Like Across the Universe, Mamma Mia! is a collection of hit songs in search of a storyline. But unlike the former, it has established its theatrical legs, playing in 170 cities across the globe. Songs like Honey, Honey and Money, Money have been twisted and tweaked to serve new narrative ends, ending up both as a vibrant paeon to Abba and a sort of Shirley Valentine on amphetamines.

Here, we have Meryl Streep as Donna, a doughty, hard-working single mother running a ramshackle hotel on a Greek island. Her daughter, Sophie (Seyfried), is getting married and, behind Donna’s back, has invited the three men that her mother slept with around the time of her conception. Sophie feels that until she discovers the identity of her father, she cannot know who she really is. And so Pierce Bosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård roll up, each to claim the daughter they never knew they had.

Watching the likes of Karen Silkwood, James Bond and Mr Darcy grapple with the familiar hooks of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulraeus’ timeless tunes is akin to indulging in some kind of blood sport. While, as ever, Ms Streep rises dynamically to the occasion, Brosnan is laughed off the screen as he manfully butchers SOS (‘How can I even try to go on…’). The real star is Christine Baranski, who brings spit and polish to her role as Donna’s friend, Tanya.

There’s gusto to spare, but in the cultural banquet of the film musical, this is strictly choux pastry.

by James Cameron-Wilson

Read the reviews of the moment in
Film Review (Jul)

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Review © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (Jul)
#698, July 2008
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