The International ABBA Fan Club based in the Netherlands has recently posted an edited version of my “Mamma Mia! The Movie” review. It was edited down for space considerations in their printed magazine. The review appears in Issue # 95 originally published in June 2008. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the issue, they can be ordered directly from the fan club. Go to www.abbafanclub.nl and click on the “About Us” link and select “Back Issues Of The Magazine” in the left column.
I’ve included the review here, it was edited down by Ursula Esser, a friend of mine from the UK, and I think she did a brilliant job condensing the original 5,600+ word review down to an approximate 1,400 word review. If you want to read the original review, click here. Thanks again to Ursula for her wonderful edit job and the ABBA Fan Club for wanting to publish it.
Mamma Mia! Movie Sneak Preview
Fan Club member Ryan Cameron was probably the first fan in the world to see the upcoming Mamma Mia! film in the a test screening in San Diego. Here is what he had to say afterwards.
The music was just so vibrant, and it was wonderful to hear ABBA’s music everywhere, not necessarily as “proper songs” but to accentuate the scenes. It all sounded so wonderful in surround sound that when I listened to ABBA in the car afterwards, I was disappointed because the sound was flat in comparison.
The movie is a great translation of the stage show onto the big screen. Some of the scenes really come alive with real sets rather than the two moveable stucco style walls in the theatre. With Phyllida Lloyd also directing the movie, it feels like watching the stage show, but magically nothing is left to our imagination anymore.
The movie opens with Sophie singing I Have A Dream while she arrives on the island in the boat seen in the trailers. She posts her invitations to the potential fathers, reading each name carefully. Bill Austin had become Bill Andersson from Sweden, which allows for the use of the Swedish flag in a few scenes.
An instrumental version of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! that will blow you away kicks in as we see each of the three dads in their home environments, Sam in his very American looking architect’s office, Harry in a posh looking British home, and Bill in a very rugged world traveler type environment, kind of Ikea meets Crocodile Dundee.
Sophie meets her two bridesmaids, and the story is off and running with Honey, Honey. The characters move from the dock towards the taverna, and the fun line from the trailer when Donna says how she used to have fun and the friend adds, “Oh, we know.” The audience loved it, and it really sets the tone for the movie.
While the fathers miss the ferry and have to catch a ride on Bill’s boat, they get to know each other. On the ferry, we see Tanya and Rosie converse with other passengers. Tanya tries to be friendly to the woman next to her, thinking she is carrying a baby but when she uncovers it, there is a dead fish looking right back at her. It is a good comical moment.
Donna picks up her friends from the dock in a Land Rover convertible. At the taverna, Money, Money, Money commences with one of the shutters breaking off its hinge when Donna wants to show her friends the view. They discuss how the taverna is in a poor state. Here the movie departs the real, and we enter Donna’s fantasy world with a Titanic-esque shot of Donna on the bow of a small cruise ship. The montages cut back between the luxury of the yacht and the reality of the taverna.
Sophie escorts the dads, who have arrived on their own, to a goat house nearby where she wants them to stay since they cannot be seen until the wedding. When Donna spots them accidentally, she immediately has flashbacks to what each of them looked like 20 years earlier. The most amusing father is probably Pierce Brosnan, with John Lennon style glasses and a handle bar moustache.
We’re launched into Mamma Mia, and Donna tries to sneak a peek into the goat house. To get a better look, she climbs onto the creaking roof. She promptly falls through an open trap door and is discovered by the three dads.
Chiquitita, back at the taverna, quickly becomes highly comical, Donna hiding in a toilet stall with Tanya poking her head over and Rosie poking hers under the door before it is revealed that Tanya is standing on Rosie’s back. One of the best scenes is Dancing Queen where the song just builds into an epic movie musical anthem. It’s like the end of Muriel’s Wedding but taken to a whole new level.
Benny makes his cameo in a courtyard scene; he has got the whole screen to himself for a few seconds, and you cannot miss him. He runs his fingers down the keyboard of a piano in a boat. Björn also makes a cameo but not until the end credits and he doesn’t have the whole screen to himself.
Sophie spends time with the dads on a boat. Our Last Summer has been moved here, and incorporates all of the dads instead of just Harry and Donna. Sky calls to Sophie from the beach, and she jumps off the boat to swim back to the shore to meet him when they sing their Lay All Your Love On Me duet as the sun starts to set. Both stag and hen night parties begin, and we are treated to the Donna and the Dynamos performance of Super Trouper, and here the film is rather close to the stage show. For Voulez-Vous, the boys return and join the party.
Both Under Attack and One Of Us have been dropped and replaced with dialogue, and Donna comforts the nervous Sophie and chastises the drunk boys parading with the bagpipes the next morning. Brilliant up to this point, Pierce Brosnan’s performance of SOS gets a little painful. Fortunately the song does not last that long although this scene is visually very nice, with Pierce and Meryl Streep singing it from opposite sides of a wall.
Rosie and Tanya are supposed to keep the fathers away from the wedding by taking them to the beach and on a boat. There is a funny moment with Bill and Harry that sounds a little like a “coming out” story when, of course, they are just coming out as fathers. Pepper, who looks like a cross between an island boy and a troll doll, complete with wild bushy hair, proceeds to woo Tanya and the whole Does Your Mother Know is rather entertaining. The film then again follows that stage show closely for a while.
In Donna’s room, she helps Sophie get ready while singing Slipping Through My Fingers. The way the scene is cut into a montage, it implies a larger passing of time than in the stage show. Donna and Sophie sit on the bed, reminiscing over photos, and they share a rocking chair in a touching mother-daughter moment. It is the movie’s tear jerker scene, very good and touching.
The Winner Takes It All is gorgeously done, with the lush background of the church and the sea surrounding Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan as Donna sings about her sorrow. Unfortunately, the song has been robbed of its showstopper ending because, before it ends, Donna runs up the stairs to the church and is out of breath so the final The Winner Takes It All is practically whispered while she clutches the side of an archway.
Inside the church, Sophie marches down the aisle to a cleverly disguised instrumental version of Knowing Me, Knowing You. The ceremony as such is close to the stage show, but I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do is done in a very truncated version, with Donna’s tongue down Sam’s throat between the “I DOs”. Sam offers a toast, which happens to be When All Is Said And Done, and fortunately Brosnan does not sing the entire song because it turns into a sing-along.
It is at the reception that Rosie belts out Take A Chance on Me. The song ends with an earthquake, bursting a geyser out of a dolphin mosaic in the taverna’s courtyard. Now everyone at the wedding is getting soaked, the guys are taking off their shirts, and all of this to the tune of Mamma Mia.
To bookend the movie, we are treated to I Have A Dream, as Donna and Sam escort Sophie and Sky down to the dock to a little boat. Somewhere along the way, Bill and Harry appear as well, and the movie is complete.
All in all, I think Pierce Brosnan’s singing was the weakest link in the movie although he is an excellent actor. Meryl Streep was incredible and handled the songs like a pro. Julie Walters just stole the show. If you are a fan of the stage show, you are going to love the movie. If you are not a fan of the stage show, I still think you are going to have the time of your life!