Movie Review: Mamma Mia! The Movie Soundtrack (2008)

Plot Details: This opinion reveals no details about the movie’s plot.

I’m not very familiar with ABBA, or their music.  To be fair, the Swedish pop group were at the top of the charts in the late 70’s/early 80’s, before I was even born.  I did grow up with the A-Teens- an incredibly cheesy ABBA tribute group- and was introduced to the song, “Dancing Queen”, thanks to them, but up until a few years ago, my experience with ABBA was very limited.

So in 2008, when Mamma Mia! was released, I honestly didn’t think it’d be a musical I’d enjoy.  A musical based on ABBA songs didn’t really sound appealing to me, even though Idolove musicals.  One of my friends finally convinced me to watch it with her, and I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Sure the film was pretty camp (as many musicals arguably are), and some of the acting and casting choices were questionable (I’m looking at you, Pierce Brosnan), but I actually enjoyed the soundtrack more than anything else.

Mamma Mia!: The Movie Soundtrack
includes a selection of numbers from the film, sung by the stars of the movie.  ABBA’s brand of pop music isn’t revolutionary by any means, but the soundtrack is still a fun one to dance and sing along to.

The soundtrack opens with Honey, Honey, sung by the film’s young lead, Amanda Seyfried.  Mamma Mia! was Seyfried’s breakout role, and it’s easy to see why with her charming onscreen performance and equally endearing vocals.  She doesn’t have a”show stopping” voice, per se, but her tone is sweet and pleasant; she easily has a voice that’s good enough for a career in pop music.  This particular song isn’t the best on the album- the sound is very dated- sounding like something right out of 1970- but the sing-along chorus is still catchy.

Legendary actress, Meryl Streep, makes her musical debut in this film and we hear her for the first time on Money, Money, Money.  Streep’s singing voice sounds pretty much as you’d imagine from hearing her speaking voice- she’s got a deep, throaty tone, but manages to handle the song surprisingly well.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying she’s a good singer, nor would I buy a CD should she ever release one, but she’s listenable. Despite my love for Streep as an actress, I am honestly not sure why they didn’t just pick an actualsingerto play the role, but I digress.

There are definitely better parts of the album than the first set of songs.  Title track, Mamma Mia! is bouncy and fun, and Streep thankfully sounds a lot less croaky during her solos.  Of course, ABBA’s greatest hit, Dancing Queen, is included, and the song is great, despite not straying far from its original disco roots.  Mid-tempo number, Super Trooper, also sounds a bit dated, but Streep works it with an understated vocal delivery.  Co-stars Julie Walters and Christine Baranski also add in some lovely backing vocals on what ends up being an ultimately fantastic track.  The entire cast joins in on the excitement with Voulez-Vous, a loud, energetic number that’s perfect for dancing.

As Seyfried is easily the best singer on the soundtrack, the best songs tend to be the ones that feature her.  Our Last Summer is a sweet duet with Seyfried, and male co-stars Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, and Stellan Skarsgard.  Firth is easily the best singer of the three men- his voice is every bit as sweet and enjoyable as his onscreen persona.  Skarsgard’s vocals aren’t good nor bad; mostly, his voice fades into the background.  The worst offender of the three is Brosnan, but as he only has a small line in this particular song, I’ll save his skewering for later.

Lay All Your Love On Me 
is probably my favourite song on the album.  The duet between Seyfried and her onscreen love interest, actor Dominic Cooper, sounds good throughout (with Cooper and Seyfried’s voices complementing each other well), but the mid-tempo melody and back-and-forth between the two singers are particularly delightful.  The song and the duet style is reminiscent of Grease, which is a very favourable comparison for me to make. The Name Of The Game is my second-favourite song; again, Seyfried sounds perfectly comfortable singing the mid-tempo number and though the scene was deleted from the film (though available on the DVD as a deleted scene), it’s definitely one of the soundtrack’s highlights.

I mentioned earlier that Brosnan isn’t vocally talented, and unfortunately we have to suffer through his “singing” for two duets.  SOS is already an over-the-top, campy song as is, but Brosnan’s clunky vocal delivery makes it even more annoying.  When All Is Said and Done is even worse; the ballad plays at a heartfelt, emotional scene of the movie, but all I can ever focus on is how bad Brosnan sounds. Most of the time, he sounds like he has a cold or stuffy nose; the tone of his voice is- quite simply- hideous.  The sad thing about both duets is that Meryl Streep actually saves the songs by being the better singer, but she’s not even that great of a singer, either.  Again, who decided to hire actors who don’t sing to play these roles?  Wouldn’t it have been better off to cast an unknown male actor who had a good voice, rather than casting a “big name” like Pierce Brosnan, who ends up sounding awful throughout the entire film?  And I won’t even bother pointing out that Brosnan isn’t even the best actor, either, because that would be whole different review…

Okay, I need to get back on track.  Despite the pitfalls in casting and poor singing from the film’s “stars”, there are still a few highlights on the album.  Slipping Through My Fingers is a beautifully sincere duet between Streep and Seyfried, whom play mother and daughter in the film.  Again, Streep’s voice certainly sounds best when she’s putting on a softer tone and she and Seyfried sound quite good together in the song.  The Winner Takes It All is Streep’s big solo ballad, and it seems that by this point of the soundtrack she’s learned how to control her voice a lot better.  There’s still a bit of a struggle during the bigger notes, but for the most part, Streep delivers the song like a pro.   Take A Chance On Me is a lively duet between supporting stars, Walters and Skarsgard, and together they prove that they might just have been better choices for the lead roles, at least in terms of vocals.

The disc ends with I Have A Dream/Thank You For The Music, which is easily one of the best songs on the soundtrack.  Seyfried sings both songs alone, and is pleasant, as always, to listen to.  As I stated before, Seyfried is by no means an incredible singer, but she’s able to carry a tune a lot better than some of her co-stars and does so with seemingly little effort.  Her honeyed vocals sound perfect on downtempo number, I Have A Dream, but the better of the two songs is Thank You For The Music, a beautiful ballad which plays over the film’s end credits.  Seyfried’s upper register gets a nice workout on this simple ballad, and it’s easy to say that she could make a career in pop music should she ever want to stop acting.

Mamma Mia!: The Movie Soundtrack
is a good musical soundtrack.  A few songs from the film are missing (namely “Waterloo” and “Chiquitita”), but the songs included are a good representation of the fun-natured film.  If you can overlook Pierce Brosnan’s poor singing and some of the “cheesier” disco music, the rest of the soundtrack is a nice mix of ABBA classics with nice singing from Amanda Seyfried and the rest of the cast.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track List
1. Honey, Honey – Amanda Seyfried
2. Money, Money, Money – Meryl Streep, Julie Walters & Christine Baranski
3. Mamma Mia – Meryl Streep
4. Dancing Queen – Meryl Streep, Julie Walters & Christine Baranski
5. Our Last Summer – Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Amanda Seyfried
6. Lay All Your Love on Me – Dominic Cooper & Amanda Seyfried
7. Super Trouper – Meryl Streep, Julie Walters & Christine Baranski
8. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! – Amanda Seyfried
9. The Name of the Game – Amanda Seyfried
10. Voulez-Vous – Full cast
11. SOS – Pierce Brosnan & Meryl Streep
12. Does Your Mother Know – Christine Baranski & Philip Michael
13. Slipping Through My Fingers – Meryl Streep & Amanda Seyfried
14. The Winner Takes It All – Meryl Streep
15. When All is Said and Done – Pierce Brosnan & Meryl Streep
16. Take a Chance on Me – Julie Walters, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth, Philip Michael & Christine Baranski
17. I Have a Dream/Thank You for the Music – Amanda Seyfried

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