22 July 2009


the cast of Mamma Mia: The Movie reunites ABBA

So...Mamma Mia: The Movie.

One of the best times I've ever had in a theater (that I'll confess to). Or actually, over eight of the best times I've ever had in a theater. And I'm saying that with a completely straight face.

I get a lot of flack for loving this film and for being an ABBA fan. I know of Richard's great revulsion that verges on riotous, violent hatred for this film and, and he's a fan too, it's buggerying of ABBA's music (actually, this may be rooted in a fear of Greeks). And it would take too long to enumerate all of it's downfalls (Aphrodite's fountain, vast age difference in the cast), shortcomings (Remington Bond singing, use of slow motion during key scenes to supplement the lack of dance acumen), and cringe-inducing moments (the dream sequence during 'Money, Money, Money', the old woman throwing off the bundle of sticks during Dancing Queen'). It is difficult to watch your favorite band get butchered by non-singers, like a church fund-raiser karaoke night. But take another look.

There's magic lying just beneath the flawed veneer.

One of the big criticisms is that the cast consisted of actors rather than singers, or even actors who can sing. In fact, to the best of my knowledge there was only one musical stage actor in the cast, and I totally believe that she was upstaged by the non-singers. Meryl Streep is able and even portrays a lovely voice towards the end of the film. The young leads have excellent and strong voices. Even Pierce Brosnan's attempt at singing grows more and more endearing with each listen. It's your like that song that the person you love half-whispers, half-sings to you in those quiet moments. It's the drunk family members having fun at a family Christmas sing-a-long. It's a late night with your mates and all of your are being silly singing at the top of your voices to the radio. It's that kind of singing, not proper singing, and sometimes that's more perfect, more emotional than a sterile recording.

An unrivaled aspect of this film is the scenery. The Greek setting was nearly perfect. The backdrop was the one unfailing and beautiful constant throughout the film, from the opening to the boat picnic scene of 'Our Last Summer' to the breathtaking camera-work during 'The Winner Takes It All'. In fact, that last song has two of the most amazing moments in the entire film, the colours (starting at :49 in the video below) and the church on the hill (Agios Ioannis Chapel, around 3:56). (Another is Streep climbing the ladder during the first chorus of the song 'Mamma Mia'.) I even got a bit choked up and teary-eyed during the culmination of 'Dancing Queen'--the first time and every time since.

Then there are the amazing ABBA-related moments. Like dressing Streep up in blue feathers and a Napoleon hat right before 'Dancing Queen' (which harkens back to their Eurovision appearance for 'Waterloo'). At the end of 'Super Trouper' where the girls end with pointing at the sky, just like Agnetha during the 1980 video for the song. And of course the cameos by Benny (at 2:53 during 'Dancing Queen') and Bjorn (at 1:50 during 'Waterloo'). Plus, during the Stockholm premiere of the film, the original ABBA was reunited (with the help of Meryl Streep) for the first time in public since the late 1980s, which was something that they thought would ever be seen.

And you know what? The film is fun. It never takes itself seriously. And the actors seemed to have a great time making the film. It's just fun--silly, dramatic, corny, familiar fun. Sometimes the grandest purpose of a creation is just to bring a smile, a stupid, goofy, giant, insipid smile. And that's what this film does for me and, from the success of it, what it does for many, many others.

I'm a huge ABBA fan. I'm a straight male. I love Mamma Mia: The Movie. It makes me happy. Fuck you.