Mamma Mia! One Heterosexual Male's Journey Through Swedish Pop History In Loose Narrative Form

July 22, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

The annual "Who's Film Career Is Less Relevant?" Contest!

I found myself in a darkened room surrounded by many strange women that were easily more than twice my age. I could just make out their silhouettes from the meager light given off by the projection onscreen. The film, set in Greece, was a harrowing look into the past of a woman's sexual history and the toll her promiscuity took on the relationship she was trying to forge with her daughter. On this bleak island paradise lost, three of this woman's past conquests come out of the woodwork, each laying claim to her 20 year old daughter.

Art house flick? Hardcore German pornography?

Not quite, loyal reader. That's just a small sample of the twists and turns one runs into in the recently-released movie musical Mamma Mia!

(NOTE: That exclamation point is actually part of the movie's title and in no way am I adding it for effect. Haphazardly throwing around exclamation points would be the first step down the long and winding road paved with declarations of "OMG!" and photographs of celebrity babies that would end in a clearing with me standing face to face with Perez Hilton.)

Yes, I saw Mamma Mia! on opening night. No, I do not own any pink shirts, or pastels of any kind for that matter. Yes, I am heterosexual. Don't think those things can co-exist?

See that spot in the middle? It exists and as far as I know, I'm one of very few people that lives there. So how did I find myself knee-deep in ABBA last Friday night? I'm sworn to secrecy, but it involves direct orders from the CIA and something about checking out the movie to make sure it didn't contain any Swedish brainwashing or propaganda set to infect America.

And so, it is with great honor and humility that I bring you the first ever review of Mamma Mia! to hit the internet written by a straight male, age 18-30.

The movie follows a woman named Donna (Meryl Streep...who knew she could sing?) and her soon-to-be-married 20 year old daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried, known best as "Naked Girl In The Pool" from 2007's Alpha Dog). Sophie wants her father to give her away at her wedding. The only problem is that she doesn't know who her father is. Making things more complicated is the fact that her mother used to be what the kids these days refer to as "easy". Finding her mother's diary from the summer she was conceived, which must have read like the Ulysses of erotic fiction, Sophie narrowed it down to 3 potential dudes. She invites the three of them to her wedding, thinking that none of them would even respond. Instead, all three potential fathers (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard) show up. As you may assume, hilarity ensues.

I knew a few things going into this movie. I was aware of ABBA and a few of their songs, and I knew that this musical used pre-existing ABBA songs in place of original tunes. I wasn't expecting the story to be great, seeing how it was just a vehicle to get from one song to the other, but it actually kept my attention. There are enough mistaken identity jokes and tomfoolery by the island natives to keep the non-ABBA fans in the audience engaged. And the twist at the end of the film? Easily one of the classics in modern cinema. Now I'm not saying that this twist is better than the twists at the end of The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects and The Empire Strikes Back all rolled into one, but I'm not not saying that either. Of course, I'm not not not saying that as well.

Let's move on.

The Good:
  • My Three Dads: Brosnan, Firth and Skarsgard are all fantastic and fit their parts to a T. They are a bit typecast as the suave dad, the uptight British dad and the adventurous traveling dad respectively. But to those of you who would complain, I say this: Your mom is also typecast. Deal with it.
  • Unintentional Comedy Abound: Look, you can't take a band's greatest hits album and decide to make it into an entire musical without having to make some crazy leaps in logic within the story. And any time you get Meryl Streep chewing the scenery in a musical as over-the-top as this one, you're going to get a lot of laughs in places they weren't meant to be. Well, it may be just one laugh. And that laugh will be mine. Everyone else in the theater stayed silent. Am I the only one who finds humor in a mother's efforts to come to terms with the consequences of sleeping around? Answer: yes.
  • Bachelor Party Hijinx: Just like in this movie, when I go off to my own bachelor party, I want about 11 shirtless dudes to show up in boats and drag me away, but not without doing an impromptu jig atop a nearby dock before jumping into the water. Except instead of guys, they'll all be women. Or midgets. Either one would work for me.
The Bad:
  • Brosnan Comes Alive!: I don't mind Pierce Brosnan. I thought he was shit as James Bond, but he's got some decent performances in him, like his turn as an alcoholic hitman in The Matador. Pierce Brosnan can act. Pierce Brosnan cannot sing. It was kind of funny at first, but eventually it sounded like someone was standing around beating a baby with a cat. Now I know you may be saying to yourself, "Mr. Funk, you can't sing either. Maybe you should go easy on the guy." Well if Pierce Brosnan wants to start a blog and criticize me on it, I guess I'd have to be ok with it. Fair is fair, no?
  • "What the fuck was that???": I've seen a few musicals in my day, and one of the things that's commonplace is that people are just going to randomly wander onstage from the wings and sing and dance around. This is a bit harder to do in film since there's not really a "backstage". How did Mamma Mia! handle this? By having random people pop up from behind walls and into doorways in mid-song and seriously creeping me out in the process. Upping the creepy factor was the fact that it was rarely an entire body popping into view. Most times, it was just a head appearing from behind a wall or into a window. The fact that they were looking directly into the camera and seemingly right into my very soul only made things worse.
  • Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner: Luckily the musical number "The Winner Takes It All" was toward the end of the film, because it stopped the movie dead in its tracks. A note to the director: If you have someone singing a giant climatic song toward the end of your musical, don't set the number in a location where all the person singing can do is just stand there. Putting another person in the scene standing blankly next to them only makes it worse.
  • "It's Not Your Fault, Will...": I know this is no one's fault but mine, but I could not for the life of me look at Stellan Skarsgard in this film and not think to myself "That's the stuck up math professor from Good Will Hunting!" Every time he was onscreen, I was waiting for Matt Damon to show up and ask him if he liked apples.
  • "9 Goddamn Seats?": The theater was surprisingly packed, but seats were found in the back...or so I thought. "These seats are all saved!" said the old lady who I easily could have taken in a fistfight. "All of them?" I asked. Yup. This one lady was saving NINE. FUCKING. SEATS. Look, if you're saving three seats, that's ok. Four? A bit of a stretch, but I'll allow it. But nine seats? Come on, lady. I did tell her that I had saved a seat for her mother and proceeded to point directly to my crotch.* I guess my humor is wasted on the elderly.
*May or may not have actually happened.

The Ugly:
  • Just Gross: Stellan Skarsgard's bare, tatooed ass makes an unwelcome appearance. I wanted to check and see if the female portion of the crowd agreed with me, but I was too busy lighting my eyes on fire.
As someone that couldn't even be regarded as a casual ABBA fan, I would give this movie a solid C. Sure, it had its fill of ridiculous moments, but intentional or not, there were quite a few times where I chuckled. And the people in the audience with me seemed to enjoy themselves.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to work. Next summer, make sure to catch Use It Or Lose It: The Motley Crue Musical! at your local theater.