Welcome to Rearview Mirror, a monthly column in which I re-view and then re-review a movie I have already seen under the new (and improved?) critical lens of 2023. I’m so happy you’re here.
When I first saw Mamma Mia! in theaters, I didn’t think it was all that good. The cast were all so hammy, speak-singing their lines to compensate for their weak voices, flipping around to disguise the fact they couldn’t dance. The plot (I assume you know what it is) was unsatisfying, the characters annoying (so much screaming!), and the dual protagonists, especially, were foolish, histrionic, and juvenile. As much as I liked ABBA (the greatest band of all time), a jukebox musical, I thought, was still sort of an abomination.
Fifteen years later, I can confidently say that the 2008 version of me was a mere cave dweller looking at shadows on the wall (Plato reference, because this movie takes place in Greece! Thematic!). All that stuff I just mentioned is what makes it good—nay, great. Also, it’s just a bunch of music videos and fun. Also, everyone was definitely drunk filming the end credits.
Mamma Mia! is a vibe, a journey, a night on the town. It’s so much more than a movie. It’s Christine Baranski on the beach and dancing on the dock. It’s the costumes, it’s the meaning of motherhood and the meaning of fatherhood, it’s a celebration of life. After you watch Mamma Mia! every other movie looks so stupid. Why are you being so serious and pretentious and pretending you’re having such a bad time and playing with your fake guns or whatever, don’t you know you can just bop around on an island? Don’t you know you can dance? You’re only 17! Feel the beat from the goddamn tambourine!
Mamma Mia! is a vibe, a journey, a night on the town. It’s so much more than a movie. It’s the meaning of motherhood and the meaning of fatherhood, it’s a celebration of life. After you watch Mamma Mia! every other movie looks so stupid.
Mamma Mia!, based on the smash hit Broadway and West End musical, opened in American theaters in July 2008, the same day as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. As many on Twitter have pointed out, this double feature was very much the Barb-enheimer of its day. And The Dark Knight is notable for a lot of reasons, but two months prior, in May 2008, another superhero movie came out that, I would argue, made a bigger impact on Hollywood: Iron Man, which kicked off the MCU in earnest.
Reader, you can look it up: Mamma Mia! out-grossed Iron Man at the global box office. I’m not even kidding. (The Dark Knight eclipsed them both, but proved to be the peak of Dark Superhero Stuff rather than the start of the franchise that’s slowly but surely killing the great American art form).
You can say you don’t like it, but you can’t say it’s bad or I will think you are ridiculous, and here’s why: Meryl Streep.
If you don’t like Mamma Mia!, that’s your problem. There’s no argument I can make that will change your feelings except to gently suggest that you chill out and live a little, maybe look into SSRIs. You don’t have to like Mamma Mia!, but you can’t say it’s bad. You can say you don’t like it, but you can’t say it’s bad or I will think you are ridiculous, and here’s why: Meryl Streep.
Meryl Streep is in this movie. Stars in it, actually. And does Meryl Streep do bad movies? Don’t you think Meryl Streep, of all people, knows which movies should and shouldn’t get made? How many Oscars nominations do you have? Because Meryl has 21. Do not sit there and pretend you know better than Meryl freaking Streep because that’s just ludicrous. She has spoken. In fact she has sung. FL