Shrill and Stagey
Release Date: July 18, 2008
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried,
Pierce Brosnan, Stellan
Skarsgard, and Colin Firth
Genre: Musical Comedy
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 108 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures/General
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Executive Producer: Beny Andersson, Tom Hanks,
Mark Huffam, Bjorn Ulvaeus,
and Rita Wilson
Producer: Judy Craymer and Gary Goetzman
Writer: Catherine Johnson
Address Comments To:Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman/CEO, General Electric
Jeff Zucker, President/CEO, NBC Universal Entertainment
Ron Meyer, President/COO, Universal Studios
Marc Shmuger, Chairman
David Linde, Co-Chairman
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000
Web Page: www.universalstudios.com
Many people will know the story because of the Broadway musical. Young Sophie, who is the only actress in the movie with a beautiful singing voice, is about to be married to Sky on the Greek island where she and her mother own a hotel. Sophie does not know the identity of her father. She sings to her friends that she found a diary where her mother describes her trysts with Bill, Sam and Harry at the appropriate time to give birth to Sophie.
A flashback shows Bill, Sam and Harry were each hippies, as was Sophie’s mother Donna. Donna stayed on the Greek island to raise Sophie alone because Donna’s mother told her not to come home when she heard Donna was pregnant.
Sophie invites the trio of men to come to the wedding. Donna, however, does not know about the three potential fathers showing up. When they arrive, she is horrified and embarrassed. The groom, Sky, gets upset because he realizes that the whole wedding may be just a ruse so that Sophie can find her father.
Lots of musical numbers describe the actions and emotions leading up to the wedding. Although no one wants to spoil this mediocre movie, it does not end on a Christian note but rather on a Romantic one.
MAMMA MIA! is a movie for aging hippies about aging hippies. In fact, it says so in the movie. Donna’s two friends continually reminisce about their youth when they were 17, footloose and sexually liberated. There is some hope that conscience, morals and decency are going to prevail when Donna becomes concerned about confronting her three boyfriends. One man has turned into a homosexual, the other is a never married adventurer, and the third, Sam, played by Pierce Brosnan, had a failed marriage. Instead of fulfilling the moral imperative for Sophie to discover her true father and her mother to deal with the issues in her life, the three men all agree to be Sophie’s father.
The movie has some elements to recommend. Amanda Seyfried who plays Sophie has a beautiful voice. Some of the numbers are memorable, but most of them are earthy, unbearable and too loud. Even so, Meryl Streep does a great job with the song, “Winner Takes All,” but it is a Broadway style show tune that will not appeal to younger audiences.
There is much overt and implied sexual conversation and activity in MAMMA MIA! During one particularly sexually charged song, a young black man tries to take advantage of one of Donna’s older friends, and the friend commits a lewd act. There are similar off-color moments scattered throughout the movie.
The island on which the story takes place is supposed to be the location of the Greek goddess Aphrodite’s fountain. During the movie, they find the fountain, which explodes in the middle of the courtyard. Thus, the Greek Goddess of Love defines the storyline.
Much of the music is too shrill to be enjoyable. Most of the cast is intentionally unattractive and unappealing. The camerawork is beautiful, but the dances leave much to be desired and are reminiscent of the sex-filled comedy LOVE GURU.
It is extremely difficult to successfully adapt a musical to the big screen. Since this musical comedy is beloved, and yet the movie is so shrill, it appears as if the director has not taken the time to translate it effectively from one medium to the other. Even if she had done a better job, she would have needed a stronger moral compass to appeal to media-wise viewers.
This translation from stage to screen leaves much to be desired. However, Amanda Seyfried, who plays Sophie, has a beautiful voice. The movie’s immoral premise as well as the action is filled with sexual conversations and lewd actions by the characters. It is extremely difficult to successfully adapt a musical to the big screen. In this case, it is not a success. Even if the filmmakers had done a better job, they would have needed a stronger moral compass to appeal to media-wise viewers.