September 25, 2008

Mamma Maniacs


Hit & Run...

It has been the unexpected hit film of the summer, taking over 60m at UK box offices alone. But, 11 weeks on from its release date, you could be forgiven for imagining that the appeal of Mamma Mia!, the adapted stage musical with the Abba soundtrack, might be approaching saturation point. While those who are not keen on musicals are unlikely to be persuaded at this stage, hardcore fans can't get enough of Meryl Streep's dungarees, Pierce Brosnan's warbly rendition of "SOS", and the blue seas and skies of a remote Greek island.

In fact, the Mamma maniacs are still storming the multiplexes on a weekly basis. Return visits of four, five, even six times are not uncommon; singalong screenings have also seen a brisk trade. A spokesperson for Vue cinemas says, "We've noticed customers coming back to see the film time and again, bringing different family members and friends".

Sarah Watkins, a 34-year-old single mother from south-east London, confesses she's a five-timer and "not done yet". Even though she's never been back to see a film even a second time before, to her, this one combines a unique blend of highly addictive cheese- based properties. She describes it as "the best feel-good film I've ever seen". Far from being put off by the dodgy singing, she feels "it just adds to the great karaoke feel".

Then there are her two daughters, aged nine and 14, who have been hooked by the film's humour - it has jokes as well as slushy romance - and, of course, the timeless tunes. They accompanied their mother to the singalong version at the Covent Garden Odeon, where, unsurprisingly, women were heavily outnumbered by gay men.

Saskia Davis, 28, a PR from Maidstone, is another repeat offender. She sees it as "an hour-and-a-half's worth of summer holiday" - clearly an antidote to the smudged-pencil skies we've endured over recent months.

Camilla Jones, 37, a mother from south London, says she'd been dragged to Mamma Mia! by her eight-year-old daughter. "Now, my daughter has been trying to persuade other members of the family to take her, because she loves the fact that we all know the words to the Abba songs."

And nobody is feeling as good about this feel-good hit as the cinema chiefs. Crispin Lilly, head of film at Cineworld, says "there's no science or logic" to the scale of the success - particularly during the traditionally quiet month of September - though he thinks word-of-mouth has driven its popularity. He points out that the advertising for the DVD has already begun, overlapping with the cinema release, "and that's driving sales".

You have to go back to Saturday Night Fever or even Grease to find a musical of such ubiquity, and the Mamma Mia! DVD will surely be top of many a Christmas wishlist.

The desire to watch a film over and over again is usually the preserve of the very young (think of toddlers watching SpongeBob SquarePants on repeat). The reassuring appeal of Mamma Mia! seems to bridge the generation gap: the whole family gets to snuggle up to the comfort blanket.

(c) 2008 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.