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Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Studio: Universal Studios
Production Year: 2008
Media Year: 2008
Length: 109 minutes

Movie: :2stars:

If there were ever a movie you wanted to love, it would be Mamma Mia!. Who hasn’t belted out an ABBA tune into a hairbrush or water bottle and put on a hip-shaking performance in front of the mirror?

Well even if you haven’t, you probably respect the infectious hooks and the enduring quality of ABBA’s songs and expect those same qualities to transfer into the film. Well the exuberance was there but unfortunately, that’s about it. With only the most tenuous thread of a plot, disjointed music sequences and little attention to character development or even character credibility, it was difficult to get wrapped up in this film the way you do the classic ABBA songs.

What plot there is centers mostly on two love stories – that of Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried), a bubbly 20-year-old blonde who’s headed down the aisle without knowing her father, and her mother Donna (Meryl Streep), a woman whose true love evaded her before Sophie was born but who may just be around for a second show.

This film is unabashedly feminine, described by the leading men in the cast (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) as “thoroughly brought to you by women” and a film in which “men are the bimbos.”But aside from Meryl Streep’s elegant and authentic performance (as is typical for her), the other female roles seemed to only play off stereotypes so you never got a full sense of feminine empowerment.

You can still have a little fun with this movie and its music, however, as long as you don’t try to overthink it. It’s clear that the cast had a lot of fun, and that’s something to appreciate in a film. But it would have gone a long way toward creating connection if the music had been better worked into the story rather than been allowed to dictate it.

Audio :2stars:

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
Spanish: DTS 5.1

In a musical, you almost always expect to be blown away by the audio. But here, it must be said that during most musical numbers the mute button was looking very tempting. Streep’s vocals held up well, and she captured the liveliness and the spirit of the music by singing live throughout the production (though a blend of live and dubbed was ultimately used). Seyfried also showed talent even if her voice at times was on the weak side. But the men…well you have to experience it for yourself, but you’ll never look at Pierce Brosnan in quite the same way again.
The film offers a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit), but there is virtually no use of surrounds, which makes the music sequences pretty lackluster. Overall, the audio was disappointing and if Meryl hadn’t given it her all in Dancing Queen, we probably would’ve written the whole category off.

Video :2stars:

Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

If audio underwhelmed in this film, then video certainly overwhelmed – and not in a good way. With the Greek Isles as a setting you envision stunning landscapes and vibrant colors, but the video here took that idea a bit too far. Perhaps because many scenes were not actually shot on location in the Greek Isles, and great attempts had to be made to replicate the sun-kissed seas and lush greenery, what the film ended up with was just that – an over-processed, over-saturated replica backdrop that at times was too sharp on the eyes and looked a little plasticky.

Special Features:
(Mostly shot in high definition)

While bonus features often seem like too much information for a single film, in the case of Mamma Mia! the film actually benefited from the additional content. After watching them you at least know what director Phyllida Lloyd was after, even if it didn’t always translate in the film. Here’s what you get:
Audio Commentary. Lloyd offers a recount of directing her first film and discusses the music, the sets, and why she chose to make use of soundstages so often in the film rather than shooting on location.
Featurettes. The Making of Mamma Mia!, Becoming a Singer, Anatomy of a Musical Number and A Look Inside Mamma Mia! come together to give a full perspective on the prep work and making of the film, as well as some brief insight into the ABBA phenomenon.

Deleted Scenes. You’ll get a few of them here, presented in one long sequence, including some juicy romance that didn’t make it into the final cut.

Music Video. The cast performs a spin-off of ABBA’s original video for the song.

Bonus Content. A fair number of bonus items on the Blu-ray release, including two U-Control features that offer picture-in-picture capability and a pop-up menu giving details on ABBA’s hits throughout the film. BD-Live is also available - My Scenes Sharing lets you bookmark, while My Chat allows you to watch the film with others and discuss.

Mamma Mia! is also the first time Universal has released My Movie Commentary, a BD-Live feature that lets you record video commentary and post it on the web. You can also have your commentary appear in picture-in-picture style over the main feature, which is pretty cool.

Overall :2stars:

Mamma Mia! as a film was just begging to happen, which is why it’s such a shame that you can’t walk away from it feeling like it was all it could be. There were moments where the film got it right – Meryl Streep’s performance of Dancing Queen and the mother-daughter connection she managed to establish out of a script that didn’t really give her much to work with, for example.
But beyond that, the film seemed to get too caught up in its own joy. It’s as if the directors, writers and maybe even the actors got so caught up in how much fun it was going to be that they forgot making a movie is actually work.

Think of it like the hangover morning after a really great party, when you start to remember exactly what happened the night before – at the time you thought you were having the best time ever, but the next day all you can think is, “Good grief, why did I ever do that and I hope no one caught it on camera.” That, essentially, is Mamma Mia!.
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