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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Solid State: The Musical!


This past weekend, my sister, brother-in-law and I went to see Mama Mia!, the new movie based on the Broadway hit, based on the book, based on the ABBA catalog. And despite Margot Harrison's less than favorable review, I genuinely enjoyed it.

My sister and I love musicals. And have for our entire lives. Most people know Christian Bale as Batman. Mention his name to me and I have no idea who you are talking about . . . unless you remind me that he played Jack in Newsies. My other favorites include Mary Poppins, Down With Love, Moulin Rouge and of course, Annie. Generally, if it involves a group of people breaking into song and dance in the middle of a city street, I'm down.

In Maine over the weekend, I caught my little brother hitting on a girl at the beach and immediately scolded him, questioning his loyalty to his college girl back in Buffalo.

"Bridge, come on!" he retorted. "This is just a summer thing! Haven't you seen Grease?"

Haven't I seen Grease? Yes, actually I have. A number of times. I've also choreographed amateur dance routines to several of the more popular numbers, thank you very much.

The adaptation of Broadway plays to screen has become increasingly popular. 2002's Chicago and 2005's Rent were both hits, and, surprise surprise, I enjoyed both adaptations. Especially watching to see if A-list celebs could pull off the high notes with the best of Broadway!

Whether or not I have shelled out to see a particular show in the traditional theater, I usually know the soundtrack courtesy of my mom and dad, bargain hunters who take the train to New York for half price show tickets. Such was the case with Mama Mia!, although c'mon. It's ABBA. We all know a little of the soundtrack just from growing up, am I right?

Mama Mia! is in no way a great cinematic achievement. The plot is hokey, the background story unlikely, and the songs . . . well, they're ABBA songs. They're good because they are bad. Oh, so bad.

But aren't those the requirements for a good musical?

There were plenty of times during the movie that I groaned. Actually, when Pierce Brosnan had his first solo song, the entire theater groaned. James Bond, it turns out, cannot sing. But to be honest, the only thing that really bothered me about the film was its use of bluescreen when the actors were flying through the Greek Isle on an old Jeep. Really? Do people still use bluescreen? It looks so . . . Gidget.

Despite that one technical faux pas, the movie was fun! Goofy, stupid fun. And perfect to see with little girl "dancing queens" of all ages. In fact, earlier that same day my sister and I had witnessed a beach rendition of "Dancing Queen," courtesy of a group of precocious twelve-year-olds.

Meryl Streep was captivating — and has a great voice to boot. Colin Firth was awkward, but funny. And Christine Baranski was Christine Baranski.

Plus, for all you men out there, did you realize that the young lead is played by Amanda Seyfreid, also known as ditsy Karen from Mean Girls? Yeah. No shortage of eye candy in this movie.

So if you are in need of a little musical therapy (i.e. 90 minutes of groan-worthy dance routines set against a striking Greek backdrop) head out to Mama Mia! If you don't like musicals, though, don't bother. And please, pardon the rest of us while we suddenly suffer a renewed interest in Swedish pop.




Amanda Seyfried is the only thing in the world that could entice me to watch this movie. But it's still not enough. I can hold out for "Big Love" season three. But damn, that girl is the good stuff.

Tyler M

I watched Newsies every single year in middle school General Music class and so every time he was on the screen during The Dark Knight I would imagine him during one of the musical numbers--"Santa Fe" perhaps, or "Seize the Day".

oh well, everyone's got to start somewhere.

Margot Harrison

I know I am a mean old grouch about this movie. But I do love musicals... I bought the sixth season of Buffy just to have the musical episode, know all the songs by heart, sing them in the car, etc. (Did I just lose all my credibility?) Joss Whedon's "web musical" was pretty damn good, too, though he's making you buy it on iTunes now.

I like Hairspray, Grease, Chicago, Sweeney Todd, anything by Cole Porter, even Rodgers and Hammerstein... but for some reason Mamma Mia! made me cringe. I told my neighbor that and she said, "But it's supposed to be stupid! It's a musical!" Kinda like people who say, "So what if Resident Evil: Extinction was dumb. It's a zombie movie!"

Which is all well and good. But the only movies I love even when they're really dumb are Asian horror movies. To each their own!


I can attest to Margot's love of musicals. In fact, I have heard her sing along to the Buffy musical many a time, in the car, shower, whilst cooking. Joss needs to hire her.

As another lover of song and dance films (I even have a shelf of musical DVDs), I also enjoyed Mamma Mia! It does not have the grit of Fame or the artfulness of An American in Paris but it does have ladies in their 50s singing their hearts out. I couldn't help but go googoo when all the women were flouncing down the coast singing Dancing Queen. Heart. Melts.

And what really nailed it for me was Meryl - sure the plot was flimsy and Pierce was wooden - but Meryl singing "The Winner Takes it All" gave me chills. Days later I am still humming it. Way to go 59 year old hottie.

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