Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

There can't be many films which are better to watch on TV, but I suspect that, for me at any rate, Mamma Mia! is probably one of them.

I shudder at the idea of paying good money to watch this at the cinema. Partly this is because I found it to be such a cheap unimaginative piece of pap (NB. I like cheap unimaginative pap), but mainly this is because of - horrors - the possibility of the rest of the audience singing along to it.

Now I don't mean to belittle those who go to and take part in such screenings - go for it and have fun I say - but as a more introverted lover of the music of Abba, I would hate to not be able to hear this soundtrack clearly.

Well, hang on a second there, I suppose that there are some aspects about going to see a film that override being able to hear it, like being able to believe what you're hearing. The dubbing in this is quite lazy, with a lot of outdoor chatter featuring as much indoor reverb as anything in The Sound Of Music. That must be a musical convention I guess, but all the same, you'd expect them to better understand the importance of how it all sounds.

But then, I suppose it's also important to remember that this is a movie presentation of a stage play (which I almost caught at the Civic Auckland in March '04), so maybe that theatrical echo was deliber… oh who am I kidding. Despite the wonderful music and enthusiastic performances, the film's other production values here are insipid.

The plot makes next to no sense, with such weak motivations as Sophie inviting her three possible fathers to her wedding and then panicking that her mum might come across them.

The segues into many of the songs are highly tenuous. Lazy scripting again.

And the visuals for each of the songs repeatedly leave the characters to remain together on the one set and just sing them. Again much like in a theatre, but with all the freedom of film I was really expecting 90 minutes of inventive pop videos here. More than anything else, I was repeatedly reminded of that musical episode of Scrubs, which due to its TV show budget similarly resorted to the same cheap direction. So what excuse does $52 million Mamma Mia! have?

All in all, Mamma Mia! is great fun to listen to, but there's not a lot to look at.

And that definitely isn't much like any west end musical worth its salt.

They actually might have been better off just filming a performance one night.

Except that then of course their mikes may also have picked up too much of the audience... :)

(available here)

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