Mamma Mia!

An independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, Donna (Meryl Streep) is about to see her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) get married. Hoping to have her father walk her down the aisle—but not knowing which of Donna's three lovers from 20 years ago it might be—Sophie secretly invites all three: American businessman Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), English banker Harry Bright (Colin Firth), and free-spirited author Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard).

Mamma Mia! has excellent writing, wonderful songs (that is, if you like the music of Abba), an all-star cast, and a beautiful location, but it's missing that one ingredient necessary in a musical—singers. With the exception of Amanda Seyfried, who can actually carry a tune, the rest of the cast range from mediocre ( Streep) to outright painful (Brosnan). The acting is exemplary, but the casting by Priscilla John could have been so much more. Given the popularity of Abba and the stage production of Mamma Mia!, there was no need to have A-list actors to line the billboard.

With location shooting in the Greek Isles, I expected to be visually pleased with Mama Mia!, but unfortunately, it isn't that great for a new release. The print is pristine—as you would expect—but the color is oversaturated to the point of giving the actors a jaundiced and sickly complexion. Detail wavers from outstanding to mediocre, especially in the longer shots, and the blue-screen work is atrocious, blatantly obvious, and constantly out of focus. The beachside settings are amazing in their detail. Can water really look that blue?

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack doesn't disappoint with strong bass, a full midrange, and crisp highs widely dispersed around the entire soundstage, especially during the musical numbers. Dialog is always intelligible, and the surround speakers provide decent ambience. Unfortunately, the best audio encode in the world can't make Pierce Brosnan sound any better!

This release includes a boatload of extras with both BD-Live and BonusView capabilities. The BD-Live features include a text-chat function and the ability to perform your own audio commentary and upload it for others to hear your thoughts on the film. The BonusView elements include a PIP track with the stars and behind-the-scenes footage. Rounding out the Blu-ray exclusive supplements is a "Behind the Hits" trivia game, asking questions about Abba songs during the musical performances.

Additional features include a "making of" feature, a deleted musical number called "The Name of the Game," and a behind-the-scenes look at training the actors to sing (all in HD). Standard-definition features include some deleted scenes, outtakes, a music video, and a commentary by the director. A digital copy is also included on a separate DVD for owners of portable players or for use in a computer.

After seeing the stage production, my wife and I were looking forward to Mamma Mia! the movie, but it pales in comparison to the live performance. While the story translates well to the silver screen, the casting choices perplexed the two of us. Meryl Streep is a wonderful actress, but she's approaching 60 and it was hard to believe her playing a character in her '40s. Given the box-office take, I'm certainly in the minority here, but if you want a better experience, catch the live show.

Release Date: December 9, 2008

Movie: 5/10
Picture: 7/10
Sound: 9/10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD55

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics