Oy veh, Mamma!

It was Valentine’s Day yesterday, so I cooked a nice meal for the two of us – Boeuf Bourgignon. I used the Keith Floyd recipe which has red wine, dry sherry and brandy in it and has to be prepared over 3 days, although I cheated and only took 2 days to make it.

Anyway, after a leisurely dinner with a nice bottle of Faugeres rose we decided to watch a suitably romantic film.

I’d bought Mrs Shark ‘Mamma Mia’ for Christmas and although we’d taken it to Normandy in the New Year to watch there we never got round to it so we popped the disc in the Blu-Ray player and settled down to indulge in some mindless entertainment.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like what followed for the next 108 minutes…

The plot was paper thin which probably wasn’t a good thing as it was stretched over nearly two hours to the point where it lost all structure and collapsed somewhat messily – rather like someone blowing bubble gum who gets gum all over their face when the bubble pops.

OK, musicals from ‘South Pacific’ to ‘Cats’ have always had to put plot second after the musical numbers but at least the plots usually stand up to scrutiny and don’t bring about a double hernia in one’s ability to suspend disbelief. However, in the case of ‘Mamma Mia’ I kept mentally pinching myself every few minutes to ask myself what was going on and why the characters were acting so insanely.

Then there was the unique concept of a musical that had singers who couldn’t sing to get my head around.

Well, that wasn’t too hard when you took into account that whoever cast it chose actors who weren’t singers. I know that Pierce Brosnan actually caught a lot of flak from the critics for his singing, but somehow it worked as he obviously didn’t care and his somewhat bluff nature allowed him to carry it off. Similarly, people like Julie Walters and Colin Firth just pitched in and seemed to convey a sort of  ‘oh fuck it, we can’t sing but we’ve got to so we might as well just go with it’ attitude.

But Meryl Streep…

Genuinely scary.

She was possibly the best singer out of all the many people in the film who couldn’t even carry a song in a bucket but she somehow managed to look the most uncomfortable whilst singing. She also flung herself around in a rather ungainly manner, looking at times like a pre-teen girl trying out some disco moves in front of her bedroom mirror.  Hard to believe that she’s 60 this year but that fact somehow didn’t help. An ageing hippy isn’t the most charismatic character an actor can play, but Meryl just looked totally unconvincing and uncomfortable with it – and that was all part of what she’s supposed to do best, namely acting…

I swear I saw sheer, naked terror in her eyes at times – as if she was totally and horrifyingly aware that she was completely unsuited to her role and couldn’t believe she’d actually agreed to  take it.

The music – needless to say – was great. I’m an Abba fan and fervently believe that when it comes to well-crafted pop music that there’s never been anyone better. So, the songs and the musical interludes were all fabulous.

However, what I had a problem with was the way each great song was shoehorned into the plot like squeezing an elephant into a crowded London underground carriage…at rush hour…with a greatly reduced service.

I could manage to screen out the fact that at times the songs weren’t being sung too well, but when you had a musical number appearing out of the blue for absolutely no reason at all then that was more difficult to ignore.

Visually it was fine, although at times it looked like a cross between the longest pop video ever and an advert for moussaka, with all the ‘locals’ looking a bit like caricatures of themselves.

Thank God they didn’t speak – I think my finger would have stabbed at the ‘eject’ button if I’d heard a Greek peasant say ‘Mamma Mia’…

I really wasn’t expecting to see a great film.

I was expecting fluff and triviality which I got – in spades.

Which brings me to the final verdict…

Amazingly, we enjoyed it.

The songs were a big plus – all of them were bankers.

And the plot, acting and script?

Well –  at the risk of making a bad joke – all of them were bonkers.

However, there was something somehow endearing about the whole concept – a musical full of great songs, a cast who couldn’t sing them and didn’t really get an opportunity to act, a script as flimsy and viable as a raincoat made of Kleenex tissues and all of this tenuously linked by a storyline that could have come from the pen of a 15 year old girl.

But it somehow worked, dammit.

There’s talk of a sequel and why wouldn’t there be?

It’s the UK’s top grossing film to date and there’s gold in them thar songs, although using all the Abba hits in the first film will either mean some ‘retreads’ or some less well known songs from Bjorn and Benny’s back catalogue.

It can’t miss!


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