Well, tonight in Sydney with a group of ABBA fans and cinema full of subdued D-list invitees I saw a preview screening of MAMMA MIA! Apparently it was the “third official screening in the world”, though there was also one in Melbourne tonight.
I’m having conflicted thoughts about the movie at the moment. I first saw the show in London when it opened in 1999, and I hated it – the story was barely there to string the songs together, the staging seemed cheap and the whole atmosphere was very pantomime. Frankly I thought it would flop in a few months and would never appeal outside of England.
When I saw it again a couple of years later when it played in Australia I quite enjoyed the show, but it was still not great, and the storyline was still rubbish. To date I’ve seen it five times in London, Melbourne and Sydney (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, he hates it but he’s seen it five times, I have that same thought quite often).
Seeing the same show, albeit slightly modified, on the big screen with high calibre actors like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan singing those familiar ABBA songs was a bit of a bizarre experience.
I’m not going to review the movie – if you’re interested in a highly detailed review, go to Ryan’s Incredible World, but be warned, there are spoilers galore.
One thing I will say is that seeing and hearing ‘When All Is Said And Done’ (minus the third verse) as a celebratory song rather than being “the ABBA song about Benny and Frida’s break-up” gives it a whole new context and an entirely different emotional response, which quite surprised me.
And maybe that moment illustrates the magic and continuing success of ABBA music – it can mean all things to all people, which is why it appeals to young and old, men and women, straight and gay.
I did quite enjoy the movie, though it took a couple of hours and a couple of beers to process it in my mind. It’s really a lot of fun. Go see it. I think it’s going to be as big a hit as the musical has been.
And if it introduces even more people to the real ABBA music and sells more copies of ABBA Gold and the rest of ABBA’s back catalogue, then all the better.