The Hollywood Reporter‘s Ray Bennett has raved about Mamma Mia! from London, where it’ll open next Friday (7.4). How does a dedicated sourpuss and Europop/ABBA hater cast doubts and aspersions without having seen the film? Obviously he can’t and shouldn’t. The watchword should always be “try to be fair.” The sourpuss can, however, sniff the air for girly-girl fumes, for hints of vapidity or plasticity or anything that feels like excessive fizz.
The word “fun,” for example, has been known to strike fear in the hearts of ardent film lovers. “Fun,” as we all know, is a code word that usually means the kind of shallow exuberance best appreciated by women and gay guys. Bennett’s statement therefore that “no matter how many blockbusters there are, Universal Pictures’ screen version of the global hit stage musical is the most fun to be had at the movies this or any other recent summer” is perhaps cause for concern. Perhaps, I say. Or perhaps not.
“Teenage boys may be glued to the latest action adventure, but the rest of the family will be having a rollicking good time and dancing in the aisles to Swedish pop group ABBA’s irresistible songs,” Bennett says. Does “the rest of the family” include dad and Uncle Frank and his son Carl as well as grandpappy Amos with the limp and the overalls? I don’t think so. And I say this as a straight guy who’s occasionally succumbed to shallow pop tunes with cleverly delivered hooks, like Paul McCartney‘s “No More Lonely Nights.”
“It’s a delightful piece of filmmaking with a marvelous cast topped by Meryl Streep in one of her smartest and most entertaining performances ever,” Bennett writes. I don’t mean to sound like a pisshead, but isn’t the use of “delightful,” “marvelous” and “entertaining” in the same sentence reason to wonder about the reviewer’s critical scrutiny levels and his general susceptibility to the gush impulse?