If beach reads is to superficial page-turners, then summer movies is to mindless, senseless, jovial entertainment. If you allow yourself to devour less than literature under the summer sun, you can have your fill by indulging in Mamma Mia! Why not, what other times of the year can we immerse ourselves in superficiality, if not in the name of summer fun.
Like the recent re-emergence of past heroes such as Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa, and the like, I suspect making Mamma Mia! is the mid-life fix for its actors and actresses. And for stars like Meryl Streep, where else can you, as a 59 year-old, sing and dance like a rock diva, jump up and down on your mattress like it’s a trampoline, dance to you heart’s content on a Greek Island with the whole village backing you, and make a splash, literally, to end a wild number. Looks like Streep has the time of her life making this movie. What more, she’s got Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard swinging and jiving with her.
On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, Donna (Streep) finds herself faced with three of her past lovers who have shown up upon receiving invitation from the bride to be, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Before getting married to her sweetheart Sky (Dominic Cooper), Sophie feels the urgency to find her real father and have him walk her down the isle. Director Phyllida Lloyd did a passable job churning out a simplistic but fun-filled movie adaptation of her Tony Award winning musical. What captures the audience is not so much the story but the popular songs written by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Titles like “Mamma Mia”, “Take A Chance On Me”, “Dancing Queen”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “The Winner Takes It All”, “SOS”, and “I Have A Dream”… supply the bulk of the movie goers their mid-life fix.
So who cares if it’s a silly, senseless, mindless escape. At least, it works… well, more or less. As I sat in the packed theatre, where families had to sit separately to find seats, where teenage boys came with their mothers, where I heard middle-age men laughing out loud, and where I caught myself watching the movie with a smile on my face and tapping my toes to the tunes, it sure worked as a great escape. Don’t expect in-depth characterization, complexity in plot structures, insightful dialogues, and please don’t mind the miscast (Bond in song?)… it’s summer after all.
Adapted from the successful musical showcasing the songs of the sensational Swedish group ABBA, Mamma Mia! the movie features authentic singing from the movie stars themselves. Yes, there are LOL moments listening to them singing in their amateurish voices. Don’t expect professional vocal performance… from Pierce Brosnan? The fun is hearing him seriously belt out “SOS”, now that’s entertainment. And all ye fans of Colin Firth, he has definitely smashed the Darcy image, if it still lingers in your Janenite mind. Here you can see him play the guitar, sing, hang loose, and dance like a rock star.
There seems to be no middle ground in our summer movies this year: Mamma Mia! is as light and giggly as The Dark Knight is dark and gloomy. If you can overlook the subliminal implications seeping through Mamma Mia: The celebration of promiscuity and the appeal of the stereotypical senseless female, then this movie adaptation is a sure escape. But if you’re expecting more, I’m sure there are other offerings under the lazy summer sun.
Photo Source: Seattle Times and Universal Pictures
~ ~ ½ Ripples
Update December 11: Mamma Mia! has just been nominated for a Best Picture Award (Comedy or Musical) at the 2009 Golden Globes, and Meryl Streep nominated for the Best Actress (Comedy 0r Musical) category.