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Mamma Mia – Movie review

September 18, 2008

Mamma Mia is enjoyable and funny. It is a sweet sweet movie, with a fantastic singing and acting performance from Meryl Streep. Yes, it’s a musical….the music is from Abba (a mid-seventies pop group), with lyrics like Dancing Queen and Money, Money, Money and a lot more choreographed to some rather bold dance steps and dramatic scenes. The movie is based on the successful Broadway musical of the same name.

As for the faults in this movie, there are many, and the New York times review enumerates them well. The movie is loud, at times the dance steps border on the vulgar, the costumes are crude, and the acting over the top…but there were some great things in the movie too. The subject for one. The movie is about mothers and daughters, a daughter’s desire to search for her father…and it’s also about romantic love. Some might call this a chick flick, but then labels like these often don’t capture the spirit of a movie.

The story (no spoilers)
The movie is primarily about older people. But even though the central character Donna (Meryl Streep) is a middle-aged lady whom love has passed by, her twenty year old daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has a pivotal role. In fact the movie opens with her and her friends on a Greek island where right in the first scene itself Sophie posts three invitations (for her wedding) to three different men. She believes that one of them is her father. The problem is – she doesn’t know who it is! This gives rise to comic situations. The fact that her mother Donna (who has had no contact whatsoever with these men in the intervening years) doesn’t know of the invites makes it all the more funny…when she finds out.
Sophie’s gang of friends are there at the island too (that is her home) and this young crowd takes part in several song sequences.

Another aspect of the movie that touched my heart was the deep friendship shown between three women…Donna and her friends. They come to the wedding and the reunion scenes are really sweet. I have some very good friends who live overseas and it made me long for them! Christine Baranaki and Julia Walters play Donna’s friends – Tanya and Rosie.

The actors
The movie has the charming Amanda playing Sophie (Donna’s daughter) but this movie would be nothing without the presence of an Oscar winning actress like Meryl Streep. The acting of the three men in the movie pales into insignificance when compared to Streep’s vivacity, energy and magnetism. Colin Firth plays Harry, Pierce Brosnan is Sam, and Stellan Skarsgard is Bill. Although Brosnan is my personal favourite, it was Colin Firth’s performance that I liked the best.

One would wonder why Streep would play a frothy role like this and I found her reasons here in this article on Rediff.com:

Streep has said she was drawn to the production and her role because of its ‘humanity, its spirit, and, of course the music.’ ‘The songs are timeless,’ she explains. ‘they just enter your body. When I came to learn them, I found I knew every single line. They have amazing hooks and great melodies.’ She also says that she was drawn by the emotional core of the story and the relationship between daughter and mother, and the friendship between the women.

Mamma Mia has been a hit abroad, having grossed $ 350 million in the last two months. It was released in America and some European countries in July (end June in the UK) but arrived in India last Friday. Nice to know that India hasn’t been at the tag end of its release schedule…the movie will be releasing in Singapore and Malaysia today and in Japan in January 2009.

So should one catch this movie? Sure, if you like melodious music, if you like musicals and if you like sentimental movies. And no, Mamma Mia is not a tear-jerker. The movie is a comedy, it’s light and makes you feel good. English speaking Indian audiences should enjoy this movie. The theatre we went to was three-quarters empty… but then it was Tuesday night. There was a small (no college crowds) English speaking crowd at the late show and they were clearly enjoying themselves. Just like we did.

(Photo credits: from mammamia.com, the movie site)

Related Reading: Review of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (English Movie)
A Wednesday Review (Hindi)
Rock On Review (Hindi)
Mumbai Meri Jaan Review (Hindi)

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2008 9:51 am

    Oh, I just love Abba!! I used to listen to all these songs in my old walkman, with my dad’s collection of cassettes !! Hehehe… I think I’ll enjoy this movie! :D

  2. September 18, 2008 10:22 am

    Sounds like one movie that I need to catch! I still enjoy it when Dancing Queen starts on my party shuffle on i Tunes!

  3. September 18, 2008 2:27 pm

    As usual i am hearing the movie for thefrist time :(
    review is nice as usual :)

  4. September 18, 2008 2:32 pm

    Ahhh, i love ABBA and infact have been wantin to watch this movie… last eve a friend said her bf who loves ABBA has sworn to not listen to them for while cos the movie made him so!!

    and now ur review says go watch!!

    hmmm,i think i will watch as i always do and then decide for myself!!!
    thanks!!:)

  5. September 18, 2008 4:21 pm

    exams and movies don’t go well together….ha well i donno how many movies i have to watc bow…it is the same old story i guess(i mean,my ranting) :P

  6. September 18, 2008 4:45 pm

    One more movie added to my list!! how do you guys so much time to see so many movies and review it too! Am i J? :mrgreen:

  7. compulsivewriter permalink
    September 18, 2008 4:48 pm

    i cant wait to watch it! i love singing ABBA songs loud while i drive :-)

  8. September 18, 2008 5:07 pm

    Nikhil, I am sure you will! It’s a well made movie.

    Aathira and compulsive writer, those songs are fun to sing along and in the movie there are sub-titles (only of the songs) so one can do it! Just hope that someone next to you isn’t doing it! :)

    Aarti, I am sure you will like this movie, if you don’t just hop back and tell me why!

    Arvind, thanks

    Vishesh, you are welcome to rant! :)

    Sakhi, work hard and play hard…meaning see movies and review them! ;)
    but seriously, we do late night shows. cinema hall is close by.

  9. Jonell permalink
    September 18, 2008 5:11 pm

    Very nice review.

    It makes me think.

  10. chirax permalink
    September 18, 2008 6:14 pm

    Will Download Oops rent, this friday.

  11. September 18, 2008 6:51 pm

    ABBA is one of my fav groups, I just love all their songs and they bring back a lot of memories.

    This is one movie I’m waiting to watch, and I confess if the quality is good, I will rent a pirated CD too…I’m that desperate :P

  12. September 18, 2008 8:34 pm

    I just hope Abbas Mustan or David dhawan don’t remake the movie with Salman Khan, Arbaz Khan and Sohail Khan! Good Review :) Adding to, to watch list.

  13. September 18, 2008 8:35 pm

    I love ABBA!! This movie is on my to watch list but I’m not getting the time. Meryl Streep was good in Devil wears Prada while the movie sucked in overall sense. Thanks for the review.

  14. September 18, 2008 8:51 pm

    Thanks for the review, Nita! Lucky, Barb, Barb’s mother and I are planning a girly evening of dinner and Mamma Mia movie. All of us need some light distraction and this movie fits the bill nicely – great memorable toe-tapping feel good music and a suitable theme for entertaining a mother and daughter duo, never mind Mom is 80 and daughter 50. G

  15. September 18, 2008 10:31 pm

    I just love ABBA! Thanks for the review Nita, it’s on my “to-watch” list. Can’t wait!

  16. September 18, 2008 11:09 pm

    I’m looking forward to seeing it.

    I wanted to see it on Broadway, but there were other shows that had priority last I was down that way.

  17. September 19, 2008 10:29 am

    Sounds like a fun movie…M gonna try and catch it soon!!

  18. September 19, 2008 12:08 pm

    You got it wrong lady – it’s a fag flick! ;)

  19. Joss permalink
    September 19, 2008 3:54 pm

    I loved this movie when saw it last month. It has great songs and sparkling performances and yes, it is light and frothy.

    Many of my friends told me to go see it because “it’s very Bollywood”, friends who haven’t actually seen many Bollywood films, that is. I think you will all agree that it is NOT. The British tongue-in-cheek humour pervading it prevents that. Whereas Bollywood item songs are slick, polished and ostentatious, Indian audiences might well think the Mama Mia! songs are amateurish and inept. Same for your playback singers, versus Pierce Brosnan ‘having a go’. And

    The thing to remember, please, is that these are songs whose lyrics the audience is meant to identify with because they memorised them 30 years ago in their teens; also they danced to the songs in their bedrooms when they were growing up; and bought shoes and catsuits to look just like Abba.

    The songs in the show are supposed to make you feel that it could be ‘you’ up there. That’s why it seems like the choreography was made up on the spot instead of drilled into the chorus by Sergeant Major Farah Khan; and why the singing sounds as good as we all do ‘in our heads’ instead of like Udit Narayan; and why for all her charms, Meryl Streep ain’t no Bipasha Basu!

    Joss, your analysis is right. No, I didn’t think this movie was bollywood at all. And yes, the songs here were more natural and went with the setting, it was really nice. And I quite liked to hear Pierce Brosnan croak! :) And while I like Bipasha, where acting skills are concerned Streep is miles ahead. I think Konkana Sen Sharma could compare with Streep, if not beat her. – Nita.

  20. Mikkelo permalink
    February 4, 2009 3:26 am

    It’s the most lovable film there is!!!

    I’ve seen it now like twice in the movies, once on the airplane and at least 20 times on DVD

    Thank you Phyllida Lloyd!!!

  21. wishtobeanon permalink
    February 9, 2009 9:30 pm

    Hi Nita, I watched the movie, thanks to your review – loved it!

  22. May 4, 2010 4:53 pm

    Don’t you think it is just a chick flick and won’t really attract the guy population..

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