I’m cheating the rules a little here by talking about a film with 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, but I couldn’t resist. Mamma Mia! is a flawed film, with many unsatisfying moments of convenience in the plot, and so many characters that most of them feel absolutely paper thin. Despite being a musical, the quality of the singing ranges from average to atrocious, None of these elements affect my enjoyment of this film, and if you enjoy it I really doubt they do for you either.
Let’s be honest here: the existence of this film is purely as a vehicle for as many ABBA songs to be jammed in as humanly possible. I think that this is a fantastic concept, and have nothing whatsoever against the idea. They’re definitely packed in to the point where there’s no room to flesh out anything else, but if it means I can have both Gimme Gimme Gimme and Super Trouper in the same scene, then damn it it’s a sacrifice that needs to be made. I may be coming across a bit biased here, but that’s because I definitely am, and I know that at least a few people reading this will feel exactly the same way. However, for the sake of semi-legitimate film criticism, I will find some other positives about the film unrelated to my enjoyment of Chiquitita.
The setting of the film establishes the fun, escapist feel from the outset, with references to Aphrodite’s Fountain keeping the tone lighthearted and fantastical. The cinematography is functional and achieves its primary purpose of shooting the island in an appealing and vibrant way. The casting is spot on, each actor giving a charming performance, with clear highlights being Meryl Streep (as always), Amanda Seyfried, and Julie Walters. The choreography, whilst usually very corny, is memorable and fun, with Lay All Your Love On Me standing out in my mind.
When the film wants to bring some emotion out of the audience, it generally succeeds, at least where the family themes are concerned. I and a friend confessed a few months ago to each other that we had both cried to the Slipping Through My Fingers scene, and Our Last Summer has some sweet moments. In fact, both of these almost make up for SOS and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, undoubtedly the worst performed songs in the movie, and entirely because of Pierce Brosnan’s unbearable warbling – at least he’s more charming when delivering his spoken lines.
In my heart, this film sits at around an eight or nine out of ten, the sheer fun I can have whilst watching it with friends or the quiet comfort I get from watching it alone cementing it as a not at all guilty pleasure for me. However, there does exist my dad, my brother, and countless other people who would rather walk across hot coals than watch this film. For them, this film would rank among the worst they have seen. In light of this, it is truly the purest example of a film misrepresented by the Rotten Tomatoes system, that elicits reactions in people far stronger than ‘meh’.
It’s an ABBA-based musical. I’m sure you can figure out for yourself how you’ll feel about it if you’re considering watching it.