Monday, August 04, 2008

Mamma Mia

Sweet Jesus.

Well, we went to see Mamma Mia.

As everyone knows, this is the film version of the stage musical which takes a bunch of Abba songs, lashes them together with twine and sticks, and grunts "See, we have made plot." And the plot, specifically: Sophie is getting married but she wants to know who her long-lost father is. So, going through her mother's diary, she comes up with three contenders, and invites them all to her wedding. They all show up, and chaos follows.

It's a remarkable film. Partly, it's remarkable because it's such an old-school musical. Everyone walks around in groups of three so that members of the chorus can pair off at the end. Chunks of it are shot on the most obvious stage set imaginable. Nobody makes musicals like this any more. When they make musicals at all, it's stuff like Chicago. This is the songs of the seventies, filmed in the style of the fifties.

But mostly, it's remarkable because of the bizarre casting. It's a celebrity karaoke night which you won't believe until you see it, and probably not even then. If you thought "SOS" was a great song, just wait until you see Pierce Brosnan get his hands on it.

The strange thing is, there already was a musical by Benny and Bjorn from Abba - Chess. Nobody wants to revive that, perhaps because it isn't camp enough. But it's got a couple of good songs in it. It's got "I Know Him So Well." It's got "One Night in Bangkok." It must be okay, surely?

Instead, we have a strange frankenstein film, assembled from bits, shamelessly contrived, and utterly, utterly ridiculous. I spent the first half with my jaw hanging open (literally, mind you), unable quite to believe that this could possibly be a real thing. The first half is utter crap, but it's so awful that it's worth seeing just to verify that it really happened.

After that... well, there are some songs halfway through with the less well known cast members, which doesn't have quite the camp charm. And then it has a stab at genuine emotion and pretty much loses me entirely. I kind of lost interest in the last third, to be honest. I mean, it comes down to this: if you want me to laugh along at how ridiculous this project is, I can come along with that. If you want me to care about the characters... are you mad? Are you insane?

It's not like I have a problem with this sort of thing. I saw the Take That musical a while back and I thought it was surprisingly decent. It had a better story than Mamma Mia, that's for sure. But this... it's terrible, frankly. The appeal lies largely in the camp factor of how ridiculous the concept is, and, y'know, it takes me about 40 minutes to digest that joke and move on with my life.