Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mamma Mia - the DVD

As the last strains of Waterloo eventually faded away I was to stay in my comfy chair for quite a while numb and trying to bring back to life my facility for objective criticism. What can possibly be said about Mamma Mia other than to recall Lord Reith who once said "He who prides himself on giving what he thinks the public wants is often creating a fictitious demand for low standards which he will then satisfy". That this DVD is what the public wants is not in dispute. But will this truly abysmal film now create a run on of "fictitious demand" as Hollywood rushes to copy it - well don't hold your breath.Of course objective criticism is a bit of a waste of time as those of us who think that good Cinema should at least be about films having a decent plot, well cast actors and decent production and direction may soon be in a minority. Those of us who suggest that on the evidence of the success of Mamma Mia that it is final proof of the maxim that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the public are likely to be seen as elitist killjoys. Well so be it - I'm not going to dilute my crucial faculties just because the public votes with its feet and its money to crown Mamma Mia as worthwhile entertainment. Never mind the quality feel the width of the box office takings!

But, for what its worth - and that's probably not much, here is a brief list of the reasons why Mamma Mia is such excreta. The plot is trivial, unbelievable, ill-constructed, offensive and just plain dull. The casting is dire. True Meryl Streep is wonderful - but when has she ever not been? But Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth are wooden throughout and they can't sing - and no this is not irony or even remotely funny. It's a MUSICAL. The leads must be able to sing. Doh! Amanda Seyfried can sing and she's very pretty too. But what about those bloody teeth? Sorry this may be a bit from left field but why would a nice little 20 year-old have to have shining white and 100% artificial looking brilliant white teeth. It made her look like an American Ryder Cup wife for goodness sake! Stellan Skarsgard (who?) was dull and he couldn't sing either. Julie Waters gave us one of her batty old ladies - we've seen it before Jules and it made no sense in Mamma bloody Mia. Christine Baranski was good - almost in the Streep class but surely a film with this budget could have cast all of the principals rather more thoughtfully?

The editing was woeful as well. There seemed to be a good few gaffes that should have been edited out and reshot - did nobody care or not think that we'd notice when an actor forgets their lines? And was that set meant to look realistic - or the extras look like real people? Maybe not. And maybe on stage it wouldn't matter. But it wasn't on stage - it's a movie! Musical Theatre only really transfers well to film when it is opened out. Think "Sound of Music" or "Carousel" or "My Fair Lady". Mamma Mia was claustrophobic despite the stock shots of the Aegean. It looked more like Pinewood. It was Pinewood!

OK so ABBA write catchy songs and we all like occasionally to hum along with them. But why put them into a stage show with a supposed plot in the first place. Why not just perform them as song and dance in concert? And if you must try and make a facile piece of drama around a random collection of songs and put it on stage then please don't later think that it will make a film. But you have - and a few rich people have become even richer as a result. And the Cinema is the poorer for it.