Blu-Ray Review: ‘Mamma Mia!: The Movie’ Makes Musical Magic

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CHICAGO – To some people, a “Sing-Along” version of “Mamma Mia!: The Movie” might sound like a threat. “No, Timmy, you can’t watch The Dark Knight for the hundredth time and if you don’t do your chores, I’m going to make you sing along with Pierce Brosnan again.” But “Mamma Mia!” has a very specific, very satisfied audience and they will be giddy with ABBA glee at the Blu-Ray release of their favorite movie of 2008.

It might have slipped under your radar while film goers were deluged with superheroes this summer. Maybe you didn’t notice that the ABBA musical with Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Brosnan, Colin Firth, and dozens of singing-and-dancing Greeks made over $140 million domestically and over half-a-BILLION worldwide. It’s the number one film in the history of the United Kingdom, passing “Titanic” just last month. Yes, ever. I always knew those Brits were different.

Mamma Mia! is available on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 16, 2008.
Mamma Mia! is available on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 16, 2008.

“Mamma Mia!: The Movie” tells the story of Sophie (the movie-stealing Amanda Seyfried), a young Greek woman who longs to have the birth father she’s never known attend her impending wedding. She reads her mother’s (Meryl Streep) journal, learns of the summer of sin in which she was conceived, and decides to invite all three potential papas, assuming she’ll know him when she sees him. Of course, she doesn’t, and hilarious hijinks ensue, all to the musical stylings of ABBA.

Mamma Mia! is available on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 16, 2008.
Mamma Mia! is available on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 16, 2008.

My own critical reaction to “Mamma Mia!” is somewhat conflicted. Yes, Brosnan sounds vaguely like a wounded water buffalo and the choreography looks like it was staged by someone on an Ouzo bender, but “Mamma Mia!” eventually wore down my defenses. Having seen the play, I’m not sure a much-better film version could have been produced. Amanda Seyfried will eventually be a star and Meryl Streep nails the numbers she needs to, particularly “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “The Winner Takes It All” in the final act. They carry the movie over the many rough patches.

“Mamma Mia!” is the ugly duckling of musicals. It’s not very well-made and features some ridiculous choices and performances but it’s hard NOT to fall for it a little bit by the time the group takes its final curtain call in the Greek sun. “Who cares about the stupid plot, the choppy editing, or the weak supporting cast? They’re singing “Dancing Queen” again!!”

With the clear knowledge that they have not just a cult classic but a film that fans are going to watch repeatedly, as my generation did “Grease” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Universal pulls out all the stops with the Blu-Ray release of “Mamma Mia!” It’s as comprehensive and well-organized a Blu-Ray release as I’ve seen during this crowded holiday season. Fans could spend days with this title and that’s not counting the repeated viewing.

First and foremost, all musicals need to look and sound right. The colors of the Greek isles need to pop off the screen and the vocals need to be mixed perfectly with the music. Check and check. The 1080P High-Definition widescreen picture looks more vibrant on Blu-Ray than it did in theaters and the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 features the perfect mix of dialogue and disco tunes.

Mamma Mia! is available on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 16, 2008.
Mamma Mia! is available on DVD/Blu-Ray on December 16, 2008.

What will truly stand out for the musical fans who find “Mamma Mia!” checked off their holiday wish list are the copious, detailed, and interactive special features. To start, there’s the aforementioned “Sing-Along” version, which is just a karaoke subtitle track on the flick’s musical numbers. Now you too can sing along to “Honey Honey”. Try not to scare the neighbors.

But that’s just the tip of the mirrorball with the “Mamma Mia!” Blu-Ray release. With “My Movie Commentary”, fans can join in the celebration and record their own video and/or text commentary on the film and send it to their friends. “My Chat” allows fans to discuss the movie live while they watch it. Surprisingly, Universal doesn’t include BD-Live capabilities on “Mamma Mia!” but these two special features more than make up for it.

As for traditional DVD features, where do we start? There’s a feature commentary with director Phyllida Lloyd, picture-in-picture featurettes accessible through U-Control, a “Behind the Hits” trivia track that provides full details and trivia on the ABBA songs and albums as they play in the film, and featurettes like “Anatomy of a Musical Number: Lay All Your Love on Me”, “The Making of Mamma Mia! The Movie”, “Becoming a Singer”, and “A Look Inside Mamma Mia! The Movie”. Deleted scenes include an entire musical number called “The Name of the Game” (with great vocals by Seyfried but clearly cut for pacing near the end of the film) and there’s even a music video for “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”

Can a home release have too many special features? Not if it’s a movie like “Mamma Mia!”, where “too many” is never enough. Give in and enjoy one of the most comprehensive and impressive Blu-Ray releases of the year, whether you want to or not.

Mamma Mia! is released by Universal Home Video on DVD/Blu-Ray and stars Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, and Christine Baranski. It was written by Catherine Johnson and directed by Phyllida Law. It will be released on December 16th, 2008. content director Brian Tallerico

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