Mamma Mia! Blu-ray Review
Abba first burst onto the worldwide scene when they won The Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with “Dancing Queen”. Ever since then they have enthralled or annoyed music fans from across the globe. It all depends on your perspective. They have sold millions of albums worldwide with songs ranging from upbeat and optimistic to heartbreaking. The soaring vocals of the two female vocalists Frida and Agnetha were supported by the songwriting prowess and musical ability of the two male members Benny and Bjorn. All the while they dressed in flashy duds to further complete their appeal. They broke up in 1982, but their popularity just grew and grew. In 1994 an Australian film called “Muriel’s Wedding” featured a woman who was obsessed with Abba. This low budget film was a surprise hit and was met with critical acclaim. Soon a musical based on Abba songs premiered in London and soon after Broadway to enormous success. People then clamored for this musical to be made into a movie. In 2008 MAMMA MIA! finally made its way on to the big screen and grossed over 600 million dollars worldwide. This Blu-ray is a tenth anniversary edition of the film. MAMMA MIA! has a flimsy storyline, but it wins you over with its spirit and joyous nature. This film doesn’t come close to musical classics as “Sound of Music” or “Westside Story”. It definitely helps if you are an Abba fan and are willing to overlook some flaws.
The movie is about a young woman named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who is about to get married on the Greek Island of Kalokari to a man named Sky (Dominic Cooper). The outside shots of this movie are breathtaking. Sophie lives there with her mother named Donna (Meryl Streep), a woman who runs a hotel to mixed results. Sophie never knew who her father was. She does find her mother’s diary from long ago and finds out that there are three possibilities. There is Sam (Pierce Brosnan), an Irish-American architect. Then there is Harry (Colin Firth), a British banker. And finally there is Bill (Stellan Skarsgard), a Swedish sailor and travel writer. Sophie sends all three men an invitation to the wedding, but makes it like the letters had come from Donna. All of them had not seen Donna in 20 years, but they all remembered her fondly. Sam had been the first love of the trio and he left Donna because he was engaged. The other two soon followed with romantic adventures with Donna in a shortened timeframe.
So that is the skeleton of the story as Sophie naively thinks she will know who her father is just by looking at him. She also wants this to be a surprise to her mother. Good luck on that. Meanwhile Donna’s good friends Rosie (Julie Walters), an easygoing unmarried author and Tanya (Christine Baranski), a rich three-time divorcee have arrived for the wedding. Both women were in a group with Donna called Donna and the Dynamos back in the day.
The movie meanders along with Abba songs used as plot points. It is all quite silly and quite intoxicating to fall under its spell. All of the actors seem to be having the time of their lives. This is definitely a female-centric movie with the men as merely supporting players. I don’t think men should be frightened by this proposition. The story of finding love at any age, redemption, truly living, hope, joy and forgiveness has universal appeal to either gender. The Abba songs have a warm spirit about them that you can fully embrace. They truly make you happy.
All of the singing is done by the actors. There is no playback singers involved here. So what we have here is the actors’ voices warts and all. The women fare a lot better than their male counterparts. Seyfried is a real standout with her strong vocal performance. Streep has a pleasant voice that sucks you in. Baranski has a playful voice that you can get behind. The three fathers (Brosnan, Skarsgard, Firth) don’t come off as well. Brosnan especially was quite difficult to listen to. He gave it a good effort, but his voice is strained and not pleasing to the ear. This hurts the film because he sings quite a few numbers. Overall there are not many standout singers in the cast. It seems the casting director was more interesting in acting ability rather than vocal ability.
Director Phyllida Lloyd also directed the play when it first came out. She was working off a script by Catherine Johnson who had written the book for the musical created by Judy Craymer. Lloyd does a good job with this big cast and tricky choreography. The outside shots were filmed in the Greek Island of Skopelos and its neighbor Skiathos. Lloyd also used the massive 007 Stage in England for the fishing village scenes. The set design is flawless and you cannot tell that they filmed on a soundstage.
MAMMA MIA! is a fun and flawed movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure some of the singing isn’t up to par, but if you are willing to take the journey it is well worth it.
Video: The outdoor scenes are just beautiful. The blues and greens really pop off the screen. It was a nice looking movie to watch and enjoy.
Sound: The sound was relatively good. All the accents involved really makes closed captioning essential. The songs do come through with just enough power for you to hear the lyrics.
U-Control: This is a great feature where you can get information about the various songs when they are performed. You can see the writing credits, the inspiration for the song, what album it was on and when it was released. You also have a picture in picture on some of the songs. Here the filmmakers or actors or both talk about the song or the casting or whatever.
My Scenes: This is where you can create your own clips. They can’t be longer than 3 ½ minutes though.
Sing-Along: This is exactly how it sounds. The lyrics of the song are displayed at the bottom of the screen and you can sing along with the actors involved.
Deleted Scenes (8:06): There is more set up for the perspective fathers. There are also more scenes with Donna and her friends. “Lay All Your Love on Me” is extended here.
Outtakes (1:33): There is nothing much in these scenes. Some of the set design falls down or the actors being a bit silly.
Deleted Musical Number “The Name of the Game” (3:02): This number is done by Sophie while she is singing to Bill.
The Making of Mamma Mia!
Birthing Mamma Mia! (4:42): This is how the movie came about. The filmmakers and actors discuss this.
The Filmmaking (9:09): The director, music director, choreographer and set designer all discuss the parts they played in making the movie.
The Cast (10:14): This is where the cast is talked about and how they the main players got involved. The filmmakers and actors all have their say in this.
Anatomy of a Musical Number “Lay All Your Love on Me” (5:42): The musical number is completely dissected. You get to see the singing, choreography and how they grapple with the outside shoot.
Becoming a Singer (10:55): This is all about the actors and how they approached the songs they were singing. You get to see Benny and Bjorn interact with them and how they recreated the songs.
A Look Inside Mamma Mia! (2:40): This is a short feature about the songs of Abba and their appeal.
“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” Music Video (3:49): This is a music video featuring Amanda Seyfried while you see scenes from the movie.
Bjorn Ulvaeus Cameo (1:35): You see Bjorn dressed up as a Greek god in his cameo.
Feature Commentary with Director Phyllida Lloyd: She goes into detail about the various scenes and the techniques used. She also talks about the actors and locations.