Based on the 1999 musical of the same name, Mamma Mia! tells the story of a young bride (Amanda Seyfried) on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi trying to find her real father before her wedding with the help of a flurry of ABBA’s greatest hits. From 2008 up until now this film had eluded me, but with the 2018 sequel/prequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in theatres this week there wasn’t going to be a better time to check it out. I absolutely love a good, fun, and upbeat musical with a strong story and some on-point humour weaved in and Mamma Mia! fits that description to a tee. I had a tonne of fun with this movie from beginning to end as the story is engaging, it embraces a gleefully campy but not too silly tone, and is headlined by a straight up incredible soundtrack. All this combined with the immensely talented cast from Meryl Streep to Amanda Seyfried makes this musical romantic comedy an absolute joy to watch.
What I love about this movie first and foremost is the way it plays out very much like a stage musical in terms of the structure and how it all feels like it takes place in a tight stage setting. The story moves along very quickly for the most part and if you have seen a number of stage musicals you can pick up exactly how every scene and interaction in here would play out on a stage. I really like the small scale nature of the film’s setting on this little island as it emulates that stage-musical feeling very well and makes everything feel connected. For instance, the way the backup performers in the musical sequences are the same few actors throughout does feel like something you’d see in a stage production, and I liked that.
This is a very upbeat, fun, and enjoyable story that does have it’s occasional emotional moment but never forgets to just have fun. It’s a little campy but it embraces that tone throughout and remains consistent. In terms of the pacing it all goes by very quickly and consistently but it does hit a pit of a slow patch early in the third act which in contrast to the rapid first and second acts is a little jarring. But thanks to the incredible music almost every scene is elevated by the presence of one of ABBA’s major hits.
ABBA has a seemingly endless discography of classic songs to delve into and Mamma Mia! does a fantastic job at integrating many of their major hits into the story in ways that don’t feel at all forced. The soundtrack here is at the forefront of the movie, it’s a character in itself and the main driving force of the plot. ABBA’s music is so energetic that it brings life to every scene and the way it plays into some of the more sombre and emotional moments works really well too.
Aside from the music though the other main component of the film is the cast, all of whom are great in here both in and out of the musical sequences. Meryl Streep is almost untouchable in this industry and she’s incredible here bringing plenty of positive energy to the musical scenes and also contributing to a good amount of the comedy. Amanda Seyfried is also great in her starring role and has a number of great scenes alongside Streep where the two of them compliment each-other brilliantly. The supporting roles from Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård are good, they won’t be winning any ARIAs anytime soon but I enjoyed them in here. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski I was initially worried about as I thought they’re characters would be annoyingly overused for comedic purposes but they were fine. They have some funny moments here and there and thankfully didn’t overstay their welcome. This also stars a rare clean-shaven Dominic Cooper who is ok but doesn’t really have much screen-time as his character doesn’t actually have much to do.
It’s a shame it has taken this long for me to check this one out but I’m glad I finally did because I had a ball with this one and will absolutely be checking out the upcoming sequel/prequel. It’s just a very fun and absolutely enjoyable movie where the comedy works, the campy tone isn’t out of place, the performances are strong, and ABBA’s music is the standout star of the show. For fans of musical if you like me have also somehow not checked this one out, do so as there is plenty of fun to be had with it.