Review: ‘Mamma Mia!’ – My Voyage to Secret Lady World

Let me first say that I am open to learning about the opposite sex, and not in a dumb how do I know she likes me? kind of way.  A few years ago I went to a local production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, where women talk discuss in rather frank terms about what makes them…women.  I was shocked–do women really talk that way when men aren’t around?–but I sat through it.  My female friends appreciated my tolerance (it was very crude) and assured me that not all women talk about lady business.  

Last summer I attended a women-only improv workshop at a national improv competition.  It was refreshing to see how women perceive how men perceive women.  I’ve even read He’s Just Not That Into You.  Sure, women still frighten me a bit, but at least I’m trying my darndest to understand them.

Mamma Mia! is a movie about women, starring women, made by women (first time film director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Catherine Johnson) and made for women.  Being a straight dude, I bravely entered into the theater with my date, knowing full well that I fall nowhere near the film’s target demographic.  I had weathered the Monologues and an improv exercise called–no joke–The Womb, and survived.  Two hours of singing and dancing to ABBA tunes won’t kill me, right?

Mamma Mia! produced a new level of discomfort for me.  I have no doubt that to enjoy this film, I would have had to have unholy doses of estrogen sashay through my veins.  I could actually feel my body physically reject this movie.  This is not a slam on the quality of the movie (that’ll come later); I’m simply saying that there are certain places I shouldn’t go, and this was one of them.  The whole time I was in the theater my soul whispered, you shouldn’t be here.  Never ignore that still, small voice that tells you you’re in way over your head, especially when taking a voyage to Secret Lady World. 

What’s it about?  If you watched the above trailer, you know the entire story.  20 year-old Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is getting married.  She sends wedding invitations to three different men (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard) who may or may not be her father.  See, twenty-one years ago Sophie’s mom Donna (Meryl Streep) had an extra hot summer, and nine months later Sophie appeared.  The only–and I mean ONLY–problem is that nobody knows who the real father is; not Donna, not her old beaus, and not a doctor who could do a DNA paternity test, because this all takes place on a remote Greek island.

The flimsy plot is weaved through a seemingly endless array of ABBA songs (as opposed to regular musicals, where songs cater to story and character) as people dance and sing and squeal and hug and kiss and drink and run away when flustered.  (This movie could have also been titled Everybody’s Running, and probably would have had ABBA wrote a song with the same name.)

What’s good about it?  Seyfried has genuine charisma and a pleasing singing voice–we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.  And Streep, in true form, owns her role and gives 110%.

What’s bad about it?  Lloyd’s direction is quite flat.  The dancing is sloppily choreographed and edited poorly.  Isn’t that one of the reasons why people go to musicals?  And to see Pierce Brosnan–the former James Bond–warble through his songs made my soul die a little.  He’s a good sport for doing it, but he was grossly miscast.  The supporting cast play their parts so broadly they leave no room for subtlety.  You can tell everybody had fun making the film, but after a while it just feels like they’re having so much fun they forgot to invite you.  

Perfect for: Women.  And only women.

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One Response to “Review: ‘Mamma Mia!’ – My Voyage to Secret Lady World”

  1. Review: ‘The Women’ - Return to Lady World « yikbo: mostly movies Says:

    […] the 1939 film that features an all-female cast and a whole lot of squabbling and fussing.  After my last viewing of a film clearly aimed at women (which was more traumatic than I would have ever anticiapted), I was not too enthused about taking […]

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