There are some things I just don't get. Pedigree dog shows for instance, or those big fluffy dice in cars. The inimitable John Clark, speaking about synchronised swimming, (another thing I just don't get) said, "It's like farting Annie Laurie through a keyhole. You've got to admit it's an accomplishment, but you've got to ask "Why?'" Exactly. I went to see the film Mama Mia last night. It's another of those things I just don't get.
The movie starts with a series of little establishing shots. One is of a girl in a boat on a picturesque moonlit sea. She's holding the tiller, but she's not rowing. There's no sail and there's no motor, but the boat is making quite good headway as it pulls out from the shore. It sort of sets up what we are to expect. There are three histrionic girls. Three histrionic middle aged women. A diary. Three middle aged blokes who each, bafflingly, tries hard to claim paternity for a girl born out of a one night stand 20 years ago (even more baffling because the mother is one of the 3HMAW ). People lip synching and exhuberantly jiggling about to old Abba songs sung by people who became famous for things other than singing - and lots of evidence as to why they wouldn't have become famous if they'd tried the singing earlier. A Greek Orthodox chapel containing a Catholic priest and a water main or a spring or something which bursts out of the ground on the top of a hill. Lots of mugging and hamming. Lots of pretty scenery. Lots of lush colours and a whole compendium of cliched cinematography.
Now this isn't the first piece of entertainment where there is no plot to speak of, and where the characters are shallow one dimensional caricatures. Most operas would fit this description, but at least in opera you are compensated for the inanity of the storyline by being able to listen to Puccini or Mozart. Here you listen to old Abba covers. Abba songs are like advertising jingles: they have very catchy tunes but mind bogglingly drivelous words. The effect this gives to Mama Mia is that if has all the intellectual power and all the emotional depth of a television ad, except that in this case it lasts for 108 minutes. 108 very very long minutes.
Now, of course I realise that this is all my opinion. I know many people who have seen this movie and really enjoyed it. When Clemency and I told folk we were going to it we were universally assured: "you'll LOVE it!" I found myself afterward like some grumpy old curmudgeon; like Mr. Hurst in Pride and Prejudice muttering as he is coming out of the Ball where everyone else has had a good time, "Dem tedious waste of an evening." Perhaps it's a gender thing, except I went with two women, one of whom yawned and went out halfway through for coffee and the other who sat rolling her eyes and snorting in derision. So, all those of you who found this film toe tappingly engaging: tell me where I am wrong. Is it me? What am I missing?