The Death of Childhood = "Mama Mia"

Jenn and I went to see Mama Mia with some friends last weekend. The verdict: ack.

And that’s “ack ack ACK ACK” of the Mars-Attacks variety; watch this movie and your mind will melt.

It’s not bad so much as deeply annoying in some parts. I’m going to come at this sort of backwards: If the actors and actresses had been 100% non-big-names (like the lead Amanda Seyfried) then this would probably have been a pleasant experience. Amanda plays the sole daughter, named Sophie, of a former wild-child played by Meryl Streep. Streep’s character, Donna, had a series of flings 20 years ago with three guys in two weeks leading to the unknowability of who fathered Sophie. Sophie has the brilliant plan to invite all three father-possibles to her wedding in order to see which one is the sperm-donator.

The beginning of the movie starts out well. Things are topical and direct; the plot moves forward without any obvious forcing in order to fit in ABBA songs. (Oh yes! If you didn’t know, the entire story is hinged around various ABBA songs, with the lyrics telling the story of different parts of the characters’ lives.) Amanda is both a good singer and dancer, which given that this is a musical is somewhat (just a bit) important. Several scenes go by with Sophie as the center of the action.

Unfortunately [whoosh!] Sophie is suddenly sidelined and we learn that what we thought was a musical about Sophie (who can sing and dance) is actually about Donna (Meryl Streep) who can sing, mostly, but can’t dance at all. Then one of the father-possibles (Pierce Brosnan) joins in the singing and your head melts.

Ladies and Gentlemen, attention! Pierce Brosnan may have lots of face appeal, and look good in a clingy-wet white shirt, but he can’t sing worthy of the silver screen. When he opened up with his first lines, the audience in my theater started laughing, and we weren’t laughing with him. Ahh, Pierce. I’m sorry.

The various so-so voices and the one or two AHHHHH voices have managed to absoutely ruin my childhood. ABBA played a big part in my musical upbringing. I know most ABBA songs and a few of them word for word. Now as I listen to the ABBA Gold Album on my Ipod, I keep having flashes of the movie, with Streep or Brosnan doing their best to cause me palpitations.1

On story notes, the plot seemed to be rather forced at times because they just had to have “Does Your Mother Know” or other song in the movie. In this respect it was in the highest traditions of the “musical” where the story is heading full tilt for the next station when suddenly everyone stops and sings about it for a while. Some musicals do this better than others. I’m going to place Mama Mia in the “others” category. There were also a few weird, random, sudden plot developments that just popped up without any foreshadowing or obvious causes. One of these sent my head spinning, especially because I’ve seen the BBC Pride and Prejudice so many times. That’s the only hint I’m giving.

So, in order of movie plot development:

  1. Amanda Seyfried does a good job.
  2. There’s lots of eye candy for all ages
  3. It’s ABBA music so how can you not like it?
  4. Um, WTF?
  5. No no no, my ears! Why, Pierce, Why?
  6. My childhood is dead…
  7. The credits were awesome
  8. Definite rental, if you see it at all

1I’m listening to ABBA, attempting to associate something else other than the movie with the music. I may have to put these songs on my running mix list in order to alleviate the damage.

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