Ripley’s Game: Musicals
Move over Hans Gruber, the bitch is back. And she’s writing for RvR. In the first of a new series where she gives her movie views, alien slayer Ellen Ripley rips into Mamma Mia. Man, she’s tough…
“I have a curious streak that gets the better of me sometimes. That nagging feeling of ‘surely it can’t be that bad’ has led me to make some questionable DVD choices. With this spirit of adventure in mind, I’m hoping you won’t close your browser window when I admit that I’ve seen Mamma Mia.
Within three minutes of the opening credits, I realised that the only way to survive the saccharine dialogue was to wash it down with neat bourbon – but it’s taken me months to piece together what bothers me most about this kind of film. It’s not that people want to see them. It’s that producers and movie studios are making them so poorly.
There’s a wealth of great musical romances in the world, dating back to the early days of film. Singin’ in the Rain was released by MGM Studios in 1952. At its conception, the film was a vehicle, a catalogue of the songs already featured in musicals released by MGM in the preceding 30 years. Producer Arthur Freed chose songs based on their popularity and the romantic storyline was later crafted around them.
But while the precedent for this kind of production meant that a feel-good romp by the Aegean Sea was almost guaranteed to be a commercial success, it seems no one took the time to ask if this was a film worth making. It might sound like I’m being unnecessarily critical of Mamma Mia, but where Singin’ in the Rain has heart, Mamma Mia is never more than soft sand and glitter balls. Gene Kelly performed Singin’ in the Rain’s title number with a fever of 103; co-star Debbie Reynolds had to be carried off set after finishing her dance scenes to song ‘Good morning’ after bursting the blood vessels in her feet (Dominic Cooper says he was very comfortable on location in Skopelos, thank you very much). It’s the teeth-grinding dedication of it all that shows up on screen, that sense that the actors are giving the performance of a lifetime.
The worst thing that Singin’ in the Rain can be accused of is irony. The plot involves Debbie Reynolds’ character overdubbing the lines of famous movie star Lina Lamont. The songs are in fact sung by Jean Hagen, who plays Lina on screen. It’s also interesting to note that while the film is quick to point out the injustice of an uncredited performer singing for someone else, MGM don’t give any credit to the young lady who sang for Debbie Reynolds. By comparison, the worst thing Mamma Mia can be accused of is Pierce Brosnan, singing for himself. Why would you do that to an audience?
All in all, never let it be said that audiences shouldn’t succumb to the occasional good love story. A Hollywood romance and a mug of cocoa is possibly the best answer to the cold winter nights ahead. All I ask is that the love stories are just that: good. And maybe that Pierce Brosnan doesn’t sing again.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK…
RIPPING RIPLEY? or RIP-OFF RIPLEY?