While I watched MAMMA MIA I couldn’t help but think of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and STAR WARS. They all fall into the same genre- fantasy. They’re just gender specific. There is nothing less implausible about Hobbits, Jedi, Elves, and space battles than there is about 60 year old women with 20 year old daughters they had 40 years ago finding true love with ancient boyfriends while whole villages or people break into spontaneous choreographed dance numbers and sing in perfect harmony. Hell, there are even magic rings in two out of the three.
I have to say that MAMMA MIA is a fitting tribute to the music of Abba. In case you don’t know, Abba was a Swedish pop band in the 1970’s that had several hits in America. They didn’t speak English, so all their songs had to be learned phonetically, and the artistry and production was top notch for the disco era. An era that replaced wood with woodgrain plastic, sugar with high-fructose corn syrup, and music with highly produced plastic high-fructose corn syrup. Compared with Abba, the Monkeys were musical geniuses on par with Beethoven and Mozart. Likewise, MAMMA MIA is a classical musical the same way that the band on the Free-Credit Report dot Com commercials are a driving force in music today. (With the exception that the Free-Credit band is a whole lot better.)
The first problem is the plot. A twenty year old girl is getting married and she uses the occasion to steal and read her 60 year old mother's diary, only to discover that mom apparently slept with every boy who could find his way to their secluded Greek island home during the summer of love. Not being too bright, she assumes she is the product of one of these many liaisons rather than the far more probable likelihood that she is the bastard child of one of the smelly sponge fishermen that are indigenous to the island. Pretending to be her mother, she sends a letter to every man mentioned in her slutty mom’s diary inviting them to the wedding. Of course, none of these men have been able to find happiness since visiting her mother’s well trod cooze in the forty years hence, so each of them drop what they are doing to rush to the island in an attempt to revisit their long lost teenage lives (since everybody knows that the joys of career, marriage, child-rearing, and emotional stability are just a sham that replaces the true joy of momentary teenage sexual fumbling). In addition to these three male infants, her mother invites her two childhood girlfriends to the island for the wedding. These two old friends have found happiness in the intervening four decades through pursuing a succession of vapid but rich male Peter Pan syndrome types, and have learned that the true fulfillment is measured by the bulge in a man’s pants. Not the one in the front, but the one over his wallet. All female reunions are measured by how many bats are driven to fly into the rocky cliffs of the Greek isle in acts of self destruction by the ultrasonic shrieks the women use to express joy when meeting. Then we are treated to a soap-opera where everybody judges every event in terms of what they find the most flattering to their own egos, interspersed with absolutely ghastly covers of songs that were at best forgettable thirty years ago and at worst poor commercial jingles merchandised as popular music. The absolute low point is letting Peirce Brosnan’s weak voice fill the soundtrack with inane warbling. The musical equivalent of a million fingers scraping down a quarter of a million blackboards. Truly, he makes me long for Richard Harris to talk his way though the soundtrack of Camelot one more time. Meryl Streep fares a little better, but honestly the only people who can actually sing among all the primaries are Christine Baranski, here reprising her role as the template for cougars everywhere, and Julie Walters as the short, fat friend. When these two sing together the audience is given a brief taste of what the movie might have been if the casting and merchandising departments had not run the show. Otherwise, this remains a fantasy movie, not so much like the sublime Lord of the Rings trilogy brought to life by Peter Jackson as like the abysmal DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie. The songs are insipid, the dance numbers are ruined by having “Hollywood stars” rather than real dancers front them, and the plot is recklessly stupid. If you liked this movie, or more importantly, it you are a woman who dragged your male partner to see it, you should spend a weekend playing Magic the Gathering dressed like a slave girl as penance. And the next time you want to go all high and mighty on your significant other just remember, he’s no sillier than you are.
Maybe a whole lot less.