Film Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

All hail Mamma Mia! As we tentatively await the sequel, I revisit a film I can’t ever imagine not loving

“I won’t be muscled out by an ejaculation”

With Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just about to hit cinemas, I thought I’d revisit the original Mamma Mia! film to remind myself of its pleasures, Pierce Brosnan’s singing and all. Released in 2008, it managed that trick of defying a lukewarm critical reception to garnering huge popularity, something repeated by The Greatest Showman (it’s almost as if film critics can’t quite imagine audiences wanting to see a harmlessly fun musical…). 

And that’s what this is in the end, lots of fun and silly with it. Based on the iconic jukebox musical of the same name, it’s a whole load of ABBA songs strung together on a gossamer-light plot of romantic comedy gold. Where it succeeds, as with the musical, is in taking the job at hand most seriously, whilst never taking itself too seriously at all. Songs are in the right places, serving as motors in the narrative, and there’s an integrity to the whole thing, even when its daft as a brush.

The casting of Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård as the three former love interests of Meryl Streep’s Donna, and thus the three candidates to be the father of her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is counter-intuitively inspired. None are great singers but all throw themselves wholeheartedly into the enterprise and the rough-around-the-edges approach to the singing is very much the aesthetic here. For better or worse, everyone sounds like normal people singing rather than West End stars and for me, it works.

And just to reiterate, it works because its fun. Streep, the almighty Christine Baranski and Julie Walters look like they’re having the time of their lives as they splash around the Aegean, revive their act Donna and the Dynamoes and smash centuries of Greek societal patriarchy through the medium of musical theatre. Heaven knows how the sequel will turn out but I’ll enjoy watching this film forever.

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