Mamma Mia! [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Andreas Petersen (17th January 2009).
The Film

By writing this review, I’m not only going to have to come to terms with a secret part of myself, but will also have to finally expose this secret to the world. I’m an ABBA fan. And not just a fan in the sense that I’ll sing along to the chorus of "Dancing Queen" ironically at parties, but I see them on the same pedestal as The Beatles. This is what happens when you are raised by Scandinavian immigrants.

That being said, I’m a huge fan of good musicals, and I’ve always wanted to see the stage production of "Mamma Mia!", but had qualms about paying 40 dollars for a ticket. Imagine my excitement when I heard that a movie of it was being made. But then tragedy struck. The film came out the same day as "The Dark Knight" (2008). This should illustrate how excited I was to see this movie. I actually had a moment of pause in my mind, asking “Which am I going to see?” Of course I saw "The Dark Knight", and in the end it was the right choice, but I still let "Mamma Mia!" slip past my fingers. So now here I am, after a half a year of building it up, on the other side having seen the film. I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.

"Mamma Mia!" tells the story of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), and is getting prepared to marry her fiancé (Dominic Cooper) on a Greek island resort run by her mother Donna (Meryl Streep). Sophie learns, through reading her mother’s journal from her pregnancy with her, that she has three possible fathers: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), a well-mannered American, Harry (Colin Firth), a fuddy British banker, and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), a Scandinavian adventurer. Sophie sends all three invitations to her wedding without her mother knowing, and the antics unfold from there.

The film’s musical numbers are all taken from classic ABBA hits, and the actual performances range from brilliant to bland. While I found most of the big productions in the film to be classically musical and generally fantastic, a few numbers fell flat, especially ones centered on Donna's character. All of Streep’s big performances come across as a middle-aged woman sort of stumbling around, and lack the energy present in other songs. But when "Mamma Mia!" is grand, it’s grand. I really enjoyed the big group dance sequences, especially one during “Lay All Your Love On Me”, involving a spontaneous group of men to appear out of the ocean, only to dance around hilariously in huge flippers. Classic.

One other thing I didn’t really connect with a hundred percent was the mother-daughter theme. This is most likely because, as a male college student, I am neither a daughter nor a mother. However, I didn’t feel completely lost, as I know the bond is there, I just feel I would have appreciated it more if I were a mom or daughter.

All in all, "Mamma Mia!" didn’t disappoint, but at the same time, is far from reaching the annals of my favorite musicals of all time. But I won’t have a problem throwing this into a Blu-ray player a few years down the line.

Video

"Mamma Mia!" is presented in a 1080p 24/fps HD 2.40:1 picture mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression, and I was immensely impressed. The visual style of the film was an integral part of my enjoyment of the film, and the picture quality was nearly flawless throughout. There was a sort of glow-filter added to the film to give it a dream-like quality, and while this could flush out details in other films, this wasn’t the case for "Mamma Mia!". Actually, instead of noticing bits of the film that didn’t look good, I spent most of the time thinking to myself how great the picture quality was. An amazing transfer.

Audio

"Mamma Mia!" is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track mastered at 48kHz/24-bit, al well as a Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks. The sound here, i.e. the music, is clear as a bell, but I never felt like my system had anything to take full advantage of. "Mamma Mia!" is the type of musical that fades out most “real” sounds, and plays almost entirely music, so I never got a ton of movement out of the audio track. What is there is great, I just wish they had made the audio track sound more tangible.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

"Mamma Mia!" is offered with a few extras, including deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, outtakes, and more. They are explored further below.

DISC ONE:

There is a feature length audio commentary track by director Phyllida Lloyd. Considering the tone of the film, I expected this commentary track to be as peppy as the movie’s content. This couldn’t be further than the truth, as Lloyd really is all business, and is very stern throughout the track. Even when trying to recount funny anecdotes, she comes off as very cold. The content itself is pretty interesting though, and certainly worth listening too.

Next "Mamma Mia!" comes with a sing-a-long track, a standard with any musical worth its weight. I’d be lying if I said I was never going to use this feature, albeit inebriated and in the presence of other ABBA fans. One day…

Next up is the delete scenes, which run together as one feature reel for 8 minutes and 6 seconds. This mainly has footage of Harry, Sam, and Bill all making their way to the island, as well as a few scenes of deleted dialogue. I generally found these to be uninteresting, and was glad they didn’t make the final cut of the film.

Next we have some outtakes, which runs for 1 minute and 33 seconds, and is basically Meryl Streep flubbing lines, nothing too interesting. I have to say, it at least isn’t accompanied by stupid wacky music.

Next is a deleted musical number: “The Name of the Game”, which runs for 3 minutes and 2 seconds. This scene occurs after Bill thinks he’s the father, and Sophie sings to him the famous song. The scene itself is fine, but since Sophie doesn’t have a similar one-on-one number with any of her other potential fathers, it’s easy to see how it may skew things. I enjoyed this though, as this is one of my favorite ABBA songs.

Next is "The Making of Mama Mia!" which is split into three featurettes:

- First is "Birthing Mamma Mia!" which runs for 4 minutes and 42 seconds. This feature includes interviews with cast and crew, along with Catherine Johnson, writer of the stage play. In this she discusses how she always felt ABBA’s music always felt like musical numbers to her anyway.
- Next is "The Filmmaking" which runs for 9 minutes and 9 seconds. Here, the process of making "Mamma Mia!" is explored, with cast and crew talking chiefly about the film’s director, Phyllida Lloyd. Lloyd expresses how concerned she was while making the film, but the cast and crew emphasize how level headed and calm she was throughout.
- Lastly, "The Cast" which runs for 10 minutes and 14 seconds, looks at the people behind the characters, and how they were chosen, including audition footage and the likes. Overall, this acted as a pretty interesting look into the process of making a musical (something I’m always interested in), and is easily the best extra on the disc.

"Anatomy of a Music Number: 'Lay All Your Love On Me'" featurette which runs for 5 minutes and 42 seconds, is a focused dissection of my favorite scene in the film. Like I said, I’ve always been interested in the process behind filming a musical, and this feature offers insight into what goes on behind the camera.

"Becoming a Singer" featurette which runs for 10 minutes and 55 seconds, offers a look at two of the men behind ABBA, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. This feature looks at how Andersson assembled his old crew of band mates back to play the music for the film, as well as interviews with the cast, showing how scared they were to impress the original members of ABBA.

"A Look Inside 'Mamma Mia!'" featurette which runs for 2 minutes and 40 seconds, offers a quick glance at the phenomenon that is the play, and how it just felt natural to bring it to the big screen.

“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” music video which runs for 3 minutes and 49 seconds, is the song from the film, only now in the form of a music video in which Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper sing the song to each other playfully in a recording studio.

Last is the Björn Ulvaeus cameo footage, which runs for 1 minute and 35 seconds, which is basically a deleted shot including the original band member. This came off as extremely awkward, as most of the extras sit and point towards the man, as he sits there with an uncomfortable smile on his face.

You can bookmark your favorite scene using the "My Scenes" feature and there are a series of blu-ray exclusive extras such as the following:

- The disc also offers "U-Control" extras which are profile 1.1 or greater, like the picture-in-picture video commentary track along with the film, which relays some of this info while you watch.
- The "Behind the Hits" is a discography you can navigate through.

The disc also includes some BD-Live features for Profile 2.0 player which include:

- "My Scenes" sharing, share your bookmarked scenes with others online.
- "My Chat" feature, chat with fans while you watch the film.
- "My Commentary" feature allows you to record your own commentary for the film.

DISC TWO:

Also included is a digital copy of the film.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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