DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Meryl Streep as DONNA SHERIDAN
    Pierce Brosnan as SAM CARMICHAEL
    Colin Firth as HENRY BRIGHT
    Stellan Skarsgård as BILL ANDERSON
    Julie Walters as ROSIE
    Dominic Cooper as SKY
    Amanda Seyfried as SOPHIE SHERIDAN
    Christine Baranski as TANYA

    Rated PG-13
    Studio: Universal

    Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd

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This summer, I wasn’t on the bandwagon for the “Mamma Mia!” film. However, I wasn’t completely off of it, either. Having been a closet ABBA fan for years, I had seen the Broadway Across America production of the stage musical several years ago, an birthday present for my wife. So I wasn’t coming to the film with a completely blank slate.

On the whole, the big-screen adaptation of “Mamma Mia!” was pretty faithful to the original stage production. It wasn’t a perfect adaptation, but it definitely captured the flavor, spirit and fun of the original material. However, it does show that adapting the stage for the screen isn’t a one-to-one comparison.

The film tells the story of a young girl named Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) who invites three man (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) to her wedding. She suspects that one is her father, based on what she has read in the diary of her mother Donna (Meryl Streep). In the days prior to the wedding, Sophie tries to discover which one is her father while dealing with her overbearing mother and the stress of a wedding.

I’ll cut to the chase about my criticisms of this film, and I’ll admit that I’m going against the grain with this first one. I’ve never been a big fan of Meryl Streep. Yes, I’ll admit that she’s a fine actress, but I don’t consider her anywhere close to being a goddess of the screen. I’ve never found her to be all that attractive, and she’s become even less attractive with age.

Streep carries with her an ego that comes through in all of her roles. With the exception of her part in “The Devil Wears Prada” (in which she arguably plays an acidic and egomaniacal character anyway), I’ve gotten the feeling that she’s her own biggest fan. Add to the fact that she’s not that great of a singer, and she’s really hard to watch in “Mamma Mia!”

Balancing her out, though, is Amanda Seyfried, who is the real star of the show – and if you don’t believe me, just take a look at who’s on the DVD cover and all the major theatrical posters. Seyfried is adorable and has a charisma that is very warm and inviting to the story. Half of the film is Donna’s story, which didn’t interest me. But the other half of the film is Sophie’s story, and that saved it.

My only other real complaint about “Mamma Mia!” is it does overstay its welcome at times. This is very apparent in a song in the middle that showcases Christina Baranski, which really doesn’t further the plot at all and should have been left on the cutting room floor. And, the end of the film lingers a bit too long after actually resolving most of the action.

Still, these are minor infractions to the enjoyment of this movie. I’m in the minority with my criticisms of Meryl Streep, and with the film’s impressive half-billion dollar worldwide gross (making it the most successful musical ever), I seem to be in the minority with my other problems.

Ultimately, “Mamma Mia!” was made for the fans of the musical. And the DVD is also made for the fans. The DVD comes in a special 2-disc edition which includes much of the standard special features. First-time director Phyllida Lloyd provides a commentary track, and there’s multiple behind-the-scenes documentaries that offer a fluffy look at the making of the film. Subjects include the anatomy of a musical number, using actors who sing (rather than singers who act), a music video, the cameo of Björn Ulvaeus, deleted scenes and outtakes.

Of course, the real fans of the film will enjoy the karaoke-style sing-along version of the film, which includes the lyrics to all 22 of the musical numbers. This sing-along option was added to select screenings in the theaters this summer, and it proved to be a hit. Now you can bring that fun home.

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