Director: Phyllida Llloyd
Certificate: Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Dominic Cooper
Watch Mamma Mia! online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Rakuten TV / Google Play
There are some films that are so horrifically bad that they’re actually good. Mamma Mia! is not one of them. This is a film with no story and no characters. They obviously felt that a string of ABBA songs would cover that up. It doesn’t. The ABBA songs are the plot, in a twisted kind of way. If the songs were connected to the characters at all, this would be forgiveable. It isn’t.
In short, Sophie (Seyfried) is getting married to Sky (Cooper) and doesn’t know who her father is. So she invites three former lovers of her mother, Donna (Streep). Cue a group of actors all joining in a karaoke session on a picturesque Greek island. Find karaoke cringe-worthy? It’s no better here. Except for Dominic Cooper, the cast members don’t seem to know how to sing. Sophie clearly chose her partner wisely.
But poor Donna is spoiled for choice. Does she go for spontaneous Colin? Sexed up Stellan? 007? There’s not much between them. Lots of people laugh at Brosnan’s piercing high-pitch wail, but he’s no worse than the others. They all mouth their way through the pre-recorded soundtrack with embarrassing difficulty, attempting to enunciate every syllable with their lips. No animals were harmed on set, but you suspect plenty of cats died in the studio beforehand.
At the head of the pack is mamma Meryl. You could argue that it takes a lot of courage to take on that role. A sense of humour, perhaps, to be able to mock your own cheesy performance. She definitely has both, but they can’t help her as she bellows The Winner Takes it All at James Bond on a cliff top – it just doesn’t work.
The result might play well as part of a drunken night in with your mates – with the subtitles turned on, it’s perfect for singalong silliness. But compared to Everyone Says I Love You, which is full of mediocre singing, but stuffed with wit, whimsy and a warm logic, and Mamma Mia! is missing something as a piece of cinema. In other hands, this could have been an unsettling horror: an unknown virus infects a middle-aged woman, causing her to burst into Swedish song seemingly at random. The virus spreads, wiping out the entire island population. And then, at the end of it all, someone starts to cry out S.O.S – standing, presumably, for shoot on sight.
Mamma Mia! is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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