Mamma Mia!: the musical vs. the movie

let’s see how much of this I can get together before dinner’s on the table.

I’d only been to see a handful of Broadway musicals in my life.

Good Vibrations- liked it more than most of the people I went with
Phantom of the Opera- I was an emotional trainwreck at age 14
The Lion King- as good as the movie and then some 😉
Mamma Mia!- best musical/day ever

the day my dad took my sister and I to see “Mamma Mia” will go down in my personal history as one of the best days of my life. Everything was perfect from start to finish. And whenever I listen to the soundtrack, I get super nostalgic and the memories come rushing back.

Now, I’m not positive what outweighs what, the pros or the cons. I wanted to believe I could start with the positives and start ranting about the negatives. But I guess it’ll take long either way, so whatever comes to mind first, I’ll run with.

The musical starts with the first montage of songs in instrumental form… bursts of emotions and excitement escalate from point a to b… and what makes the musical special, just hearing the intro brings me back within the snap of my fingers. I recall everything about the theater as this is taking place, minus all of the people in the seats.

The movie begins with Sophie singing “I have a dream,” mailing the three letters to her three possible fathers. One by one, the three read the letters, get out the door and head towards their means of transportation to get to this island in the Mediterrean.

After the musical montage, the curtain rises, Sophie mails the letters. Then the next scene matches the one in the movie, her two best friends come to the island and she spills the details.

One of the greatest faults I find in the movie lies in the casting. As if it wouldn’t be as big a success without a bunch of A-listers playing the leads. Between the James Bond films, Pierce Brosnon seemed like a shoe-in to play Sam… but… wait a minute

[took the playbill out of drawer]
can’t believe I still have this, I have every playbill of the four musicals I’d been to see.

I guess he does kinda look like the guy who played Sam on Broadway… but I dunno… you think they could have found someone who could have sung a lot better than Pierce Brosnon.
“S.O.S.” is all the more painful because of his inclusion…

hilariously I was wracking my brain to figure out who could step into his shoes and play a better Sam… Robert Downey Jr. sprang to mind almost immediately and I’m covering my face (oh shoot, that’s ridiculous)… still I wouldn’t mind the idea… ahem, but I checked the time the movie came out and realized right away that wouldn’t have worked out.

he was probably working on Iron-Man at the time busy guy

Hugh Jackman would also have made a good choice, seeing as he’s equally handsome and has singing talents worthy of a production like this.

They kinda changed a few things around to make it more contemporary and current. But also, I guess, to suit the actors cast in the other roles.
Stellen Skarsgard, this was the first time I’d seen him in a movie, I think… I didn’t recognize him or Christine Baranski.

In the musical, his character is Bill Austin, but they changed it to Anderson for the movie. I guess because he’s an actor of Swedish descent, Austin was too American a last name.
My impression of Bill Austin is that he’s a travel writer that’s a true adventure. Somewhat between an American Cowboy and Crocodile Dundee… wait, I mean the Crocodile Hunter (if you listen to his speaking part in the song “Gimme Gimme Gimme” in the musical’s soundtrack, you hear that accent in there)… I prefer Bill Austin to Anderson, but it’s not a horrible casting choice.

Meanwhile, Colin Firth as Harry Bright… need I say more, handsome man, great voice and just like the guy who played him in the musical 😎 the one thing they changed for the movie was Harry Bright coming out of the closet later in the show… okay, I guess that’s all right. Was kinda unexpected.
Perhaps one of the funniest things about him in the movie, he uses the word “spontaneous” an obscene amount of times but its great because he says it half-heartedly in most cases

The other really disastrous casting choice in my opinion was Meryl Streep.
Okay, so she was on fire between The Devil Wears Prada, A Prairie Home Companion and a bunch of other movies around that time, but it doesn’t mean she should be the #1 casting choice for this role.
Donna is at least in her 40’s and she’s at least in her 60’s… it irks me that she looks way too old to play this part. It’s not genuine in my eyes. There are some good moments, yes, but for every good one, there’s another that’s equally awkward. Not all of them are scenes she’s in, but they’re those cheesy movie moments that have me thinking “did they really need to go this far” or “interpret it this way”… the title track for the entire movie, now that’s one of those “grin & bear it” moments… like are we completely serious right now?

I don’t remember how Donna finds out about the three guys in the musical, but the movie’s rendition certainly didn’t hit the right note with me.
I believe she starts singing it at random and suddenly she comes across the three guys and the song comes to a close.

And actually, the movie feels like a soap opera in some of the earlier scenes. “Chiquita” starts off sore as if it’s meant to be super goofy. Although the two girls had me sold after singing to her standing on top of one another in front of the bathroom stall

once they hit their stride, the three have an amazing harmony going for them.

I liked Rosie and Tanya just fine in the musical, but love them in the movie. Really brought the characters to life. What’s not to love about Mrs. Weasley playing Rosie?
And thanks to a little earlier insight (her short scene in “The Pick-up Artist”), Christine Baranski brings more to the role every time I watch the movie.

The casting choice that I was sold on immediately and will stand by as the best decision they made with the movie:

Amanda Seyfried as Sophie… she’s amazing in every aspect. Can sing well, great actress and she matches the description of the character to a tee.

As for her fiance, Skye… geesh, I’m looking less forward to seeing him portray Howard Stark in “Captain America” (whenever that comes out on DVD)… because he just annoyed the hell out of me in the movie. Making me ask why she’s in love with him in the first place, aside from him being good looking, there’s nothing else there. What really gets me is the kind of jerk he becomes when he finds about Sophie writing her three dads… acting as if the wedding was about that more than the two of them…

liked him a lot better in the musical.
Dominic Cooper, I’ve got ur number, buddy
[mimics Robert DeNiro’s “I’m watching you” sign]

a couple of things are tossed around, mixed up… some for better, some for worse…

“S.O.S.” is bad enough between the non-chemistry I see on set… but add the fact I really don’t buy into how they staged that number. They’re singing and watching the other person doing whatever as if they don’t… yes, I know the lyric goes “so when ur near me, darling can’t u hear me sos”… geesh…

My biggest greivences come during the 2nd half of the show… the inclusion of that monstrosity… the deletion of one of my favorite songs in the whole show and the massacre of “The Winner takes it all”

I’m a sucker for big ending notes. When I heard Meryl Streep’s version of that song, I was beyond disappointed that there was no high note at the end. It’s one thing if she can’t physically hit it, but couldn’t they have at least found someone that could? The song just doesn’t have the same oomph without that in place
another thing that annoys  me about the song… they do this in the musical and it works just fine. She spends the entire song standing in one place, not really going anywhere, the camera pans around. I’m thinking through most of it “dude, you could have gotten to the church by now, lol”

I can also understand that “Knowing me knowing you” would be redundant after “S.O.S.” but I missed that song so bad when it wasn’t in the movie. Screw the fact Pierce Bronson can’t sing, I was looking so forward to that song.
The guy in the musical does it amazingly 😉

there are two small deletions to take into account but aren’t complete losses…
in the musical, “Thank you for the music” was the third song and it was Harry Bright on guitar with Sophie singing the final version. In the movie, its the ending credits :shrug: at least they had it

“Under attack” is another great song, but the way they wrote the movie, it makes sense not to have it there. The song plays as a metaphor for Sophie tossing and turning at night and you see a group of shadowy figures carrying her bed around the stage.

one final alteration grievence: “Our Last Summer” plays earlier in the movie and its shared by the three guys and Sophie.
I’m thinking WTF, it was supposed to be Donna and Harry recollecting the summer of the flower power… I don’t care if she met the three guys over a summer and it works out that way… “thank you for the music” should have been there instead.

there really isn’t a scene where Donna finds resolution with Harry or Bill… the entire movie is spent on whether or not she and Sam are going to get back together. What are they, anyway, chopped liver?
in the long run it makes sense they focused more on that specific couple, but gimme a break, I’m not in the forgiving business about those A-listers they hired just so the movie could attract more people.

One alteration that does work is where they put the song “Take a chance on me”… after the wedding rather than before, where in the musical, Rosie is chasing Bill through the aisles prior to the service. Both versions of that song are equally hilarious

in addition, there were two songs I didn’t know the words to, so naturally I was pissed off about that. Whatever that song is that Sam sings at the after wedding toast… that wasn’t in the damn musical, why is it in there?

“Waterloo” at least has the benefit of being a good, fun song that works during the credits. Did not hear that in the musical and its not on the soundtrack either.

there’re tons of goofy moments in the movie, some work and some don’t.
“Does your mother know” is probably even more fun in the movie, but both versions rock. Ain’t nothing like a cougar telling the boys how it is

another thing that varies was the deletion of the track “the name of the game”… luckily the DVD includes it in the special features. Its where Bill believes that he’s Sophie’s father and the two of them have this nice duet.
It’s among the more powerful numbers in the entire show and I still get chills of nostalgia running through me when I listen to it. Nothing says “father/daughter” like this song.

The greatest thing about “Mamma Mia” is that it covers all kinds of family relationship… mother-daughter, father-daughter, a little something for everybody

Seeing the movie might give me reason enough to check out the soundtrack again… there was a time in college when I was listening to it and it was a difficult thing for me. Certain songs gave me the wrong kinds of chills and kept me up at night. My way, I guess, of dealing with my depression. It attaches to certain songs so therefore I couldn’t listen to them without thinking about an all-too recent time I didn’t feel all that great.

Among those songs I think… 3… “Lay all your love on me,” “Super Trooper” and “Under attack”

one last thing I can say about this show… its one of those ones you really hate to end, so naturally the longer version of “I have a dream” has me feeling sad by the end of it, but has one of the most beautiful endings of any song I’d ever heard.
The great part about seeing the musical and even watching the movie through the credits is that you get an encore at the end. It picks your mood right back up.

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