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Mamma Mia! Review: Escapist Musical for Dark Times

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 8, 2008 at 7:43AM

As a fan of movie musicals, Meryl Streep and the hunky stars playing her trio of ex-lovers, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, I was eagerly looking forward to Mamma Mia! The Movie.
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As a fan of movie musicals, Meryl Streep and the hunky stars playing her trio of ex-lovers, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard, I was eagerly looking forward to Mamma Mia! The Movie.

Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of the music of Abba, and there's the rub. I never saw the global musical theater hit. And Brit theater director Phyllida Lloyd, making her film debut, opted to keep those fans happy with this movie, which falls into the trap of a slavish Broadway to silver-screen adaptation. It doesn't follow the rules of good filmmaking.

Where is it said that all the songs have to play out in real time, even when they stop the movie cold? And because the book for the musical was written around pre-existing songs, their ability to carry genuine emotion is already limited.

No question, the actors up on screen are having the time of their lives. (Only Skarsgard looks like he wishes he were in another movie. But he hardly gets to sing.) While Streep is delightful as the feisty middle-aged single mom about to give away her only daughter in marriage, the star of the show is young Amanda Seyfried, who has great pipes.

Her other co-stars don't fare so well. But does it matter? My pal Jane predicts that this exuberant Greek Island romantic musical will play great to aging boomers looking to get away from the real world. Look at this as an escapist fantasy during dark times, she says.

What Mamma Mia! needs to achieve that goal is to be more review-proof than most chick flicks. Here's a glimpse of reviews to come from Variety.

originally posted on Variety.com

This article is related to: Genres, Reviews, Musical


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.