Mamma Mia! is a film version of yet another one of those Broadway musicals made up of a plot stung about songs of a well known pop group (in this case ABBA). ABBA has a notoriously bubbly –and infectiously hummable– musical style that helped make Mamma Mia! a blockbuster.
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has been raised by her single mother Donna (Meryl Streep). She has no idea who her father is. Now grown up, Sophie is soon to be married. Before that happens, however, she is desperate to track down her father. She feels that there is a ‘hole in her life’ that will not be filled until she knows her full heritage. After finding her mom’s old dairies, she discovers that even her mother doesn’t know who her father is. There were three different men in her mother’s life near the time in question: Sam (Pierce Bronson), Harry (Colin Firth), and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård). So Sophie sends wedding invitations to all three hoping she can figure out which one is her dad and get him to walk her down the aisle.
Meanwhile, Donna is in the midst of her own reunion. Donna’s two oldest friends, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) (who, incidentally, once upon a time were the other two-thirds of girl group Donna and the Dynamos) have arrived for the wedding. This forces Donna not only to deal with the unexpected presence of three ex-boyfriends, but Tanya and Rosie’s particular brand of mischief as well.
The film isn’t half bad, but the age 29 male demographic of the author is clearly not the target audience. This film is very much a ‘chick flic’. The two generations of women are the core of the movie– not the fathers. Of the twenty songs in the finished film, in only eight did the dads actually sing –and three of those are chorus numbers. Even Sophie’s fiancée (Dominic Cooper), seemingly an important part, is barely in the movie. Aside from the aforementioned chorus numbers, the fiancée gets only one(!) song. Clearly Mamma Mia! belongs to the ladies’.
Interestingly though, Mamma Mia! doesn’t seem to be after the teenage or college student ‘chick’ audience. Instead, it is going for the late 20s to 40s ‘chick’ audience –that is to say, grown-ups. Tanya and Rosie get prominent sub-plots, while Sophie’s girlfriends are only in a few scenes. Furthermore, Mamma Mia! doesn’t restrict being ‘sexy’ to actresses under twenty-five. Though Hollywood has gotten better about this gender bias in recent years, particularly on the television side of production, it is still on the unusual side for a movie to treat ‘grown-up’ women as real people with real relationships.
While the ladies are pretty good in Mamma Mia!, the men represent a bit of a 50/50 split as to whether they are any good. Pierce Bronson can’t sing – so much so that the scenes where he does are unintentionally funny. Colin Firth is a little better but gets fewer songs. On the other hand, the characters Sam, Harry and Bill are written in a comedic manner and are not supposed to be taken seriously. Bronson, Firth and Skarsgård succeed wildly at being non-serious. (There is a sequence playing over the end credits that is hilariously non-serious) To summarize the performance of the guys: comedy– good; singing– bad.
The MPAA has rated Mamma Mia! PG-13 for ‘some sex-related comments’. A bigger problem than the comments per se may be that there is a sort of mildly bawdy sexual subtext running through the film. Little or none of this comes out explicitly though.
The following libraries in the Columbus area show DVD copies of Mamma Mia! in their catalogues: Bexley Public Library, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Grandview Heights Public Library, Southwest Public Libraries, Westerville Public Library and Worthington Public Library. Most local Blockbusters carry this title (here for more info.)