Of all the poor - terrible movies that Merryl Streep's been in (Rendition, The Hours, The Devil Wears Prada, Postcards From the Edge, Silkwood,...) most of them remain tolerable because of her performance. Mamma Mia! is no different. In fact, were it not for Streep - and the cotton-soft charm of Colin Firth - Mamma Mia! would be the worst film of the year to date. But lor-dee, did the clueless acting of Christine Baranski and Julie Walters ever do its damnedest to weight Streep's ankles and anchor her to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
However, the fault for this claptrap truly lies at the feet of first time theater-turned-film director, Phyllida Lloyd. Lloyd may be a very fine theater artist, I have no idea, but behind camera she's like Jewel writing poetry, Eddie Murphy singing R & B, Janeane Garofalo talking politics, or Helen Hunt attempting anything. This is no more polite a term to describe the damage Lloyd does to the valuable film stock burning inside her expensive cameras than murder (perhaps "rape" or "molestation" ... but, arguably, those are worse).
Now, before you brush me aside as just another male who uses the term "chick flick" to marginalize the cinema of sensitive women everywhere simply searching for that lightest of lovely entertainment, consider that I've recently gone to bat for the likes of Enchanted, Why Did I Get Married?, In The Land of Women, Waitress, and Mad Money. And if you question my allegiance to the genre of musicals, then perhaps one day we'll share a dressing room and I can show you the tattoo of Vincente Minnelli that I have inked across my heart.
No. What cripples Mamma Mia! is what cripples any old movie that's been directed and edited by a monkey and/or blind person. I imagine cinematographers and choreographers the world over will be appalled after seeing the opportunity that is wasted by Lloyd and crew during the "Dancing Queen" sequence.
ABBA's most iconic pop moment, "Dancing Queen" is a song whose huge chorus can lift any jaded dolt from a frown and fresh into the imagined carefree evening of a seventeen year old experiencing euphoria on the dance floor. "Night is young and the music's high/ With a bit of rock music, everything is fine". It's a sin when a filmmaker ignores such basic universal wisdom and chooses to shoot a bland sequence of lifeless fiftysomethings hopping around an island, playing candy-ass air guitar solos, and high-fiving each other in the water.
If you really wanna enjoy ABBA's music alongside some clued-in imagery, watch Madonna's video for "Hung Up" or go out and rent Muriel's Wedding again. Or, if you've got the time, round up friends, family, lovers and make your own home video to the ABBA smash of your choosing. It's sure to contain more passion that a single second of Mamma Mia!.
S.O.S. .... S.O.S. ... S.O.S.!!!