Friday, December 19, 2008


The loser has to fall

By Edward Copeland
I love musicals. I'll even admit that I find several ABBA songs catchy. So please, someone, explain to me how a film as awful as Mamma Mia! was such a big friggin' hit.

There are so many things to criticize about director Phyllida Lloyd's screen version of the Broadway smash that it seems strange to me that one of my biggest problems with the film comes down to math.

The skimpy plot on which the medley of ABBA songs is hung is very similar to a sunny version of the awful 1980s TV movie Lace II, with Amanda Seyfried inheriting the Phoebe Cates role only without the chance to ask the three possible sperm donors, "Which one of you bastards is my father?"

Anyway, back to the math problems. Seyfried has perused the diary of her mom (Meryl Streep) and realizes that three men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) could be her father. Since Seyfried is about to wed on the Greek isle where her mother runs a villa, she invites all three men hoping she can determine her paternity and have dear new dad walk her down the aisle.

During one number by the men, they remember their glorious past with Streep during the "flower power" days. Now, there is no indication that Mamma Mia! is a period piece, so I have to assume it takes place in the present.

At first I thought perhaps they made the strange casting decision of having the 23-year-old Seyfried playing someone in her late 30s or older, but that idea went out the window when her character later says she's 20.

Then I had to assume that this Greek isle had some strange rip in space and time that allowed hippiedom to last until the late '80s. They never say how old Streep's character is, but since the actress is 59, does that mean she was still going through her wild child phase at 39?

Tossing all that mathematical nonsense aside, there is another puzzler. Brosnan's character left Streep's character because he was engaged, but he says he broke off the engagement and returned to her only to find she was with someone else. As a result, he wed someone else and says he's been divorced for 21 years and has grown children. Yet he's a suspect in the paternity of a 20-year-old girl. Huh?

Enough math. Let's discuss other suspensions of belief it's hard to get past. Granted, anytime large groups of people burst out in song, it's a little fake, but it seems particularly odd at times here. When Streep is sneaking around a rooftop to spy on the men hiding in a room, suddenly other people living on the island join her up on the roof for the sing-a-long for no apparent reason.

That one isn't as bad though as when the young couple are singing their love on the beach to each other and suddenly a chorus of backup dancing men outfitted with flippers emerge from the sea.

Mamma Mia! surprised me. I expected it to be harmless, but it was dull, wasted the talents of many talented performers and made me long for a real ABBA album so I could hear the songs the way they were meant to be heard instead of the piss-poor productions they get here.

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Oh Comon! It is a fun musical...its not about facts...its not made to think about. its made to sing along and have a good time.
And you have to admit that Meryl Streep is really great!
I was surprised the other way around...i thought it was gonna be awful and came out really liking it!
I agree that most musicals involve a certain suspension of belief, but I was so bored and thought it was so bad that's why my mind wandered to math. The only surprise to me was that both Julie Walters and Christine Baranski didn't get paired off with the left-over men (though I nailed early who Walters would end up with).
I'm with you 100% on this one, Ed. It is DREADFUL. I didn't concentrate very much on the math, even though, as you point out, it makes no sense whatsoever. I took note of the chronological inconsistencies and then forgot about them, because really, applying any kind of standard of logic to something as stupid as "Mamma Mia" is pointless. And anyway, I can usually forgive lapses in logic if a film is actually entertaining - this clunker is so lacking in any kind of entertainment value that I left the theater feeling as though my time would have been better spent watching Fox News. It's not as gay, but it still has more genuine flamboyance than this hunk of pink plastic.

Which is why it will be hysterical when the florists and headwaiters annoint it "The Best Musical or Comedy of 2008" (cuz it's gonna be REAL tough fending off the low-grossing indies it's up against). Gotta love The Globes. Gotta love `em.
I suppose we should be grateful that the waiters resisted the urge to nominate High School Musical 3
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