Mamma Mia! (US - BD)
Gabe did his best for the ABBA fans in the house, but this just isn't for him...
Mamma Mia was created by seventeen of the most talented scientists from fourteen countries, who were sequestered for a gruelling seven months in a halogen bleached, hyper-sterilized lab. Their mission: create the ultimate chick flick, one that will so overpower the audience with its oestrogen that never again will a major motion picture studio have the need to pander to anyone but the ten to forty five male market. The scientists were told that it’d be nice if the film could work as a bit of counter-programming to The Dark Knight as well.
For the first six months and three weeks the scientists goofed off, spending their time creating cures for cancer and cold fusion (both of which are now the sole property of Universal Studios). Realizing they only had a week to finish their project (the one they’d been paid for), the clever team decided to adapt a Broadway musical that women already loved. It was based on the music of ABBA, the story concerned a wedding, a pretty island, an A story about middle aged women, and a B story about twenty-somethings. The hardest part was the casting, but fortunately, apparently, the exact scientifically ideal candidates were all available…with one exception. What the scientists failed to do was account for was how difficult it would be for an audience to watch Meryl Streep make an ass out of herself.
Because the scientists were so successful in completing their mission, critics found themselves with an un-reviewable film. There was nothing they could say about massively predictable plot-lines, overly hammy performances, unstoppably sappy montages, loads of heavy handed morals, or toothpick supported story structure (really, it took more than thirty minutes to tell this story?), without snaps of ‘that’s not the point’, ‘you’re just being mean spirited’, or ‘it isn’t that kind of movie’. All we can really do is unfavourably compare the film to better recent film musicals, like Enchanted (a more effective and charming romance), Once (a much classier film), Across the Universe (a more imaginative take on a famous pop group’s music), and Sweeney Todd (a better stage to screen adaptation). At least I can give them a little earned shit for tacking ‘Waterloo’ at the end of the film (‘crap, we forgot their most famous song!’), even if it was the most interesting thing in the entire film.
If anything, Mamma Mia is a bright and colourful movie. Even during the night-time party sequence blacks act more as contrast to rather light blues. Obviously filmmakers can take a lot of liberty with the decorative nature of a stylish musical, but setting the thing on a Greek island kind of automatically ups the ante. The photography is mostly rather stunning, and the colours are beautifully represented on the disc. The hues lean a little red, but are very pretty. There are a few genuinely blurry moments with real detail loss in faces and other important elements, but most of the blur is possibly purposeful. To match the candy colours (and possibly because some of the older actors and actresses know too well the harshness of high definition) almost everything is shot in soft focus. Overall the details aren’t really any tighter than I’ve seen on upscaled DVDs, the Blu-ray’s strengths show themselves in the lack of noise and grain (of which there’s almost zero), and the brightness of the colours.
Musicals really do sound fantastic in lossless surround sound, especially when the people mixing the music know how to use the rear channels. The music sounds unsurprisingly super-duper in DTS-HD Master Audio. The tones are warm and rich, the instruments and vocals are sharp, and effectively divided, and the underlying bass track is warm and poppy without warbling, or overpowering the rest of the track. The vocal mix between talking and singing is surprisingly consistent. There isn’t a lot of tonal difference, and that’s impressive to me. The non-musical aspects of the track are just fine, including some effective directional effects, and some nice surround channel work.
The U-Control extras include a behind the scenes PiP option, and pop-up information on the songs as they are sung. The PiP bit didn’t work on my Profile 1.0 player, of course.
Standard extras begin with director Phyllida Lloyd’s commentary. Lloyd has been the architect of Mamma Mia since its theatre days, so she’s very familiar with the material, perhaps too much so. Her tone is almost insufferably serious, and she seems to greatly overestimate the dramatic aspects of the film (she really hammers down how deadly serious she thinks parts of the exclusively silly motion picture). But Lloyd is consistent and full of information for the film’s fans.
There are two ‘sing along’ options, as the film plays, or a pick and choose option. These, of course, include on screen lyrics. The deleted scenes are presented as a non-anamophic reel, without chapter stops or menu options. All together they run about eight minutes. The outtakes, or blooper reel, is presented in the same non-anamorphic fashion and run a minute and a half. There is one deleted scene that’s presented in full HD video, and DTS sound—a three minute musical number called ‘The Name of the Game’.
‘The Making of Mamma Mia’ is cut into three bits. ‘Birthing Mama Mia’ starts with the process of securing the film rights from the original writers, moves into the cast and crew talking about how great the process was, and some minor behind the scenes info. ‘The Filmmaking’ concerns everyone’s love of first time movie director Lloyd, the song and dance training and design, and the production design. ‘The Cast’ spits a little more sappy love at the audience, running down the absolute ultra greatness of every one of the actors and actresses. Watching the studio singing sessions is actually quite amusing, and makes even a non-fan like myself really appreciate the fact that the actors are singing for themselves. The whole making of runs about twenty four minutes.
‘Anatomy of a Musical Number: Lay All Your Love on Me’ runs down the process of training the actors (Dominic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried in this case) the song, the actors recording the song in the studio, training the background actors, and choreographing and blocking the scene. ‘Becoming a Singer’ is eleven minutes more about training the actors’ voices, and the process of singing on and off of set. ‘A Look Inside’ is a very basic EPK, basically a trailer. The extras finish off with a music video for ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’, trailers, and a bit highlighting Bjorn Ulvaeus’ cameo a little more than is seen in the film.
I’ve got nothing against ABBA, musicals, or chick-flicks, believe it or not, and I really, really want to avoid offending anyone of the film and play’s massive fans, but I didn’t enjoy Mamma Mia. I didn’t find it particularly stylish, I didn’t like the storyline at all, and pretty much only grooved at all to the three top male performances. Streep has a great voice, and she throws herself into the role, but I thought she just looked foolish. The disc’s sound and sing along options should please fans, though the extras are pretty weak.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 16th December 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Director Commentary, All-New Musical Number "The Name of The Game", Sing-Along Function, The Making of Mamma Mia!, Becoming a Singer, On Location, Amanda Seyfrieds "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" Music Video, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Cast: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgard
Length: 108 minutes
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