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Phyllida Lloyd
Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Rachel McDowall, Ashley Lilley, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Ricardo Montez, Mia Soteriou, Enzo Squillino Jr.
Writing Credits:
Catherine Johnson (and musical book)

Take a trip down the aisle you'll never forget!

Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) has just one wish to make her wedding perfect: to have her father walk her down the aisle. Now she just has to find out who he is ...

Join the music, laughter and fun of the irresistibly charming Mamma Mia! The Movie. Academy Award winner Meryl Streep leads an all-star cast, including Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, as well as up-and-comers Seyfried and Dominic Cooper, in this musical celebration of mothers, daughters and fathers; of true loves lost and new ones found.

Box Office:
$52 million.
Opening Weekend
$27.751 million on 2976 screens.
Domestic Gross
$143.704 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 12/16/2008

DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Director Phyllida Lloyd
• Sing-Along Mode
• Deleted Musical Number
• Previews
DVD Two:
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• “The Making of Mamma Mia!” Featurette
• “Anatomy of a Musical Number” Featurette
• “Becoming a Singer” Featurette
• “Behind the Scenes with Amanda” Featurette
• “On Location in Greece” Featurette
• “A Look Inside Mamma Mia!” Featurette
• Music Video
• Bjorn Ulvaeus Cameo
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Mamma Mia!: Special Edition (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 10, 2008)

Who says the movie musical is dead? Not the producers of Mamma Mia!, the Broadway hit that came to the big screen in the summer of 2008. Mamma opened the same weekend as the Dark Knight juggernaut and managed a less than scintillating $27 million during the period. That was $131 million less than Batman earned, a figure that may well be present the biggest difference between first and second place movies in history.

But Mamma turned into a steady earner. No ever thought it would compete with the likes of Dark Knight, but it consistently raked in good money each week over an extended period. Mamma ended up with a take of $143 million, which seems more than adequate for a relatively inexpensive musical.

The question becomes whether or not the fluffy Mamma deserved its success. The film concentrates on the upcoming wedding between Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Sky (Dominic Cooper). A former pop singer, Sophie’s mother Donna (Meryl Streep) runs an inn on a small Greek wedding, and this is where they plan to hold the ceremony.

Sophie dearly wants her father to “give her away”, but there’s a problem: she doesn’t know who he is. She raids her mom’s diary and learns that three men could be her dad. The solution? She invites all three of them to the wedding and plans to figure out the culprit when he arrives. That means Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), Harry Bright (Colin Firth) and Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgård) all come to the ceremony. While Sophie tries to identify her old man, Donna reacquaints herself with her old paramours – and maybe love will begin anew.

A few months before the flick hit the screens, I went to New York. A gay friend of a gay friend told me I must see Mamma Mia! during my trip. I reminded him that I’m straight and that was the end of that.

I stand by my assertion that few heterosexual males alive will get anything out of Mamma Mia!, a concept bolstered by my viewing of the movie. The big question now becomes this: what do gay guys and women like about this nonsense?

I don’t know, as I find it hard to imagine anyone would be entertained by this candy-coated glop. I will say this: ABBA put out some darned fine pop tunes. It’s taken me a couple of decades to admit that, as I always thought of ABBAas superficial pop piffle. Maybe it took Madonna’s sample of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” for 2005’s “Hung Up” to crack that wall, but I can now see that ABBA made fun pop.

Those tunes act as the main – and maybe the only - positive in Mamma. At least the backing tracks prove satisfying, but the erratic vocals found in the film rob them of a lot of their power. Clearly the producers cast for acting skills, not for vocal prowess. The renditions vary from decent (Streep) to sketchy (Firth) to yikes!!! (Brosnan). Some of the others like Seyfried and Cooper sound good on the surface, but it quickly becomes obvious that the music producers used lots of Autotune to get their performances up to snuff.

I guess technology couldn’t fix the others; while the track may use some Autotune for Streep and the rest, the technique seems less obvious. Whatever the case, don’t expect much pleasure from the music. That’s a shame since the songs are good – and since this is a musical. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be, but I think musicals are supposed to be brighter and livelier than this exercise in forced fun.

Oh, all around you, everyone works triple time to convince you that there’s life to be found in Mamma. It’s all sugarcoated nothingness, though. The film pursues a relentlessly peppy, perky tone packed with over the top, Broadway broad performances. With their shouted lines and unsubtle gestures, you get the feeling the actors think they’re on stage and not in a movie.

I suspect this comes from the guidance of director Phyllida Lloyd. She was the first to direct Mamma on stage, but the flick marks her motion picture debut – and boy, does it show. Lloyd clearly has no idea how to use a camera or stage a scene for the big screen. Throughout the film, I was struck by the awkwardness of her shot choices, and she can’t deliver a quality musical number to save her life. Most of those sequences look like they come straight from early Eighties music videos; they’re stiff and cheesy.

Lloyd also doesn’t know how to tell a story. Granted, some of the flaws may come from the source material; I never saw Mamma on the stage, but I don’t get the impression its narrative does much to impress. Still, the awkward nature of the tale becomes a distraction. There’s no narrative flow, characters go missing for too long, and nothing blends together well. Songs come out of nowhere and don’t mesh with the dramatic scenes.

Speaking of elements that don’t make sense, would someone explain the chronology of the story to me? I get the feeling that the movie’s supposed to take place in modern day, as the fashions sure look current, and references to the Internet seem to set the tale in the here and now. This means that Donna’s trysts with the guys would’ve taken place in the late Eighties.

However, the flashbacks to those scenes never remotely resemble 80s fashions or music. The Harry sequences give off a very late Seventies vibe, while the Sam and Bill elements feel like they go back all the way to the Sixties! We even hear a reference to the Summer of Love – that was 1967! Donna’s pop group clearly existed as a Seventies entity as well; they would’ve been long out of fashion by 1988.

Why does the film use such anachronistic time references? For its warped sense of wacky fun, of course. The filmmakers don’t care that nothing makes sense; it allows them to dress up Streep, Brosnan and the others in silly period costumes.

Blech. Mamma Mia! feels like a mix of poorly shot music videos cobbled together with some loose story elements. It’s such an amateurish product that you wonder how it got to the big screen, much less how it found such a substantial audience. Other than Amanda Seyfried’s very, very fine breasts, there’s nothing worthwhile in this flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Mamma Mia! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a good but not great transfer.

Sharpness usually appeared acceptably accurate and detailed. At times, however, I found the image to come across as a little fuzzy and soft, with lesser definition seen in some of the wide shots. Nonetheless, most of the movie appeared clear and appropriately focused. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, but I noticed some light edge enhancement at times. No print flaws materialized; the film remained clean and fresh.

In terms of colors, the flick went with a whole lot of teal and orange – especially teal. Within its parameters, the tones looked fine.

As for the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it offered a functional effort and that was all. Of course, I didn’t expect a dazzling soundfield from this sort of musical, and I got exactly what I anticipated. In terms of effects, general ambience ruled the day. Surround usage stayed limited; the back speakers gently fleshed out various settings but did no more than that.

In those forward channels, the music provided nice stereo separation and opened up the mix reasonably well. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity or movement, but the effects conveyed a passable sense of space and place. Surround bolstered the music in a decent manner. The track functioned appropriately for the story.

Audio quality appeared fine. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, and speech displayed no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were a minor component of the mix, and they seemed appropriately subdued and accurate; there wasn’t much to hear, but the various elements were clean and distinct. The music came across as acceptably distinctive. This became a decent reproduction of the material.

A mix of extras fills out this 2-DVD set. On Disc One, we open with an audio commentary from director Phyllida Lloyd. She provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and performances, the adaptation of the stage musical, music and choreography, sets and locations, cinematography, production design, and a few other subjects.

While I don’t care for her movie, I think Lloyd provides a strong examination of the production. She covers virtually all of the appropriate topics and does so in an engaging manner. I’d have liked to learn more about what it was like to shift from the stage to the screen, but I can’t complain, as I think Lloyd offers a lot of good info here.

A Deleted Musical Number runs three minutes, one second. “The Name of the Game” comes during Sophie’s chat with Bill to figure out if he’s her dad. I don’t know why they cut it; it’s no worse than anything in the final flick.

In addition to the standard movie presentation, we can watch it in Sing-Along Mode. The film actually ran theatrically with this feature. It simply runs lyrics at the bottom of the screen; the big block capital letters change from blue to yellow as the songs progress. If I actually wanted to croon along with the movie, I’d prefer the standard subtitles; they’re less ugly. Note that the “Sing-Along” is available in English, Spanish and French.

A few ads launch DVD One. We get promos for Beethoven’s Big Break, some NBC series, Mamma Mia! on stage, Billy Elliott: The Musical, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Milk and Blu-Ray Disc.

Over on DVD Two, we start with five Deleted Scenes. These last a total of eight minutes, six seconds. We find longer introductions to the three potential fathers, a sequence in which Sophie badgers Sky to follow her will, more of the Dynamos arrival, an extension to “Lay All Your Love On Me”, and a bit more to the potential romance between Bill and Rosie. These are pretty minor scenes, though fans will enjoy them, I suppose.

One annoyance: the DVD presents the scenes in a way that makes them all blend into each other. At times it becomes tough to tell when one ends and the next begins. Would it have killed the DVD’s producers to leave a second or two of black screen to separate the clips?

One minute and 34 seconds of Outtakes arrive next. Don’t expect more than the standard goofs and giggles. This short reel doesn’t give us much of interest.

After this we locate six featurettes. The Making of Mamma Mia! goes for 24 minutes, seven seconds as it provides notes from Lloyd, producer/creator Judy Craymer, producer Gary Goetzman, lyricist/executive producer Bjorn Ulvaeus, screenwriter Catherine Johnson, composer/executive producer Benny Anderson, music director Martin Lowe, choreographer Anthony Van Laast, executive producer Mark Huffam, production designer Maria Djurkovic, and actors Meryl Streep, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, and Dominic Cooper.

“Making” looks at the adaptation of the stage production, Lloyd’s direction, aspects of the flick’s music and choreography, sets and locations, and cast and performances. Here we find a fairly fluffy look at the film. We already learn much of the info from Lloyd’s commentary, so don’t expect many new details. The addition of some behind the scenes elements makes the show more worthwhile, but it remains pretty mediocre.

For the five-minute and 42-second Anatomy of a Musical Number, we hear from Lloyd, Cooper, Lowe, Seyfried, and Van Laast. “Anatomy” looks at “Lay All Your Love On Me”, as it digs into various aspects of that tune’s presentation. It does a good job of this, as it provides a nice little recap.

Becoming a Singer goes for 10 minutes, 55 seconds and features Lloyd, Andersson, Streep, Goetzman, Ulvaeus, Lowe, Baranski, Skarsgård, Craymer, Brosnan, Firth, Seyfried, and Huffam. The featurette looks at issues related to the music, with an emphasis on turning the actors into vocalists. Through the piece, we get good glimpses of the recording sessions and other background elements. Those allow this to become an interesting piece.

During the four-minute and 14-second Behind the Scenes with Amanda. We follow the actress through various parts of the production. It’s very fluffy.

The movie’s setting comes to the fore in On Location in Greece. The show lasts four minutes, five seconds and features Goetzman, Lloyd, Craymer, Huffam, and Baranski. It provids a smattering of facts about the shoot, but mostly it comes across like a travelogue.

Lastly, A Look Inside Mamma Mia! runs two minutes, 41 seconds as it shows Brosnan, Streep, Baranski, Craymer, Andersson, Ulvaeus, Seyfried, Lloyd, and Goetzman. This is a basic promotional featurette and nothing more, so don’t expect any substance. It is the only place here where we see shots of ABBA and of the original stage production.

Next comes a Music Video for “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)”. Essentially a vehicle for Seyfried, it mixes shots of her in the studio and on some locations with movie clips. Seyfried remains pretty hot, but this is a dull excuse for a video.

For a look at a real live member of ABBA, we go to the Bjorn Ulvaeus Cameo. The one-minute, 36-second clip offers a specific look at the ABBA composer’s brief appearance in the film. It’s a nice way to isolate him since he passes by pretty quickly in the flick.

DVD Two also includes a digital copy of Mamma. This allows you to copy the film to your computer or to a portable digital device. If that suits you, go nuts!

Despite a pretty good cast and a roster of solid pop tunes, Mamma Mia! thoroughly flops as a movie. Granted, it might flop as a stage production as well; I never saw it so I can’t say. I do know that the film production suffers from a myriad of problems and comes with exceedingly few strengths to balance out those weaknesses. The DVD provides fairly good picture and audio as well as a collection of extras highlighted by a very nice audio commentary. Too bad the movie itself is a grating dud.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main