Mamma Mia! Blu-ray Review
Mamma Mia! comes to Blu-ray with a theatrically correct 2.40:1 transfer, with a 1080P resolution. The good news is that, as we should expect, the source is absolutely pristine. There are no defects present whatsoever, no scratches, no dirt, or any other blemishes.
In addition to this, the black levels are genuinely very good indeed, resulting in good shadow detail (essential with a film shot in hot, sunny climes) and excellent definition. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said of the night time scenes. These may be few and far between, but when they do appear the image is strangely flat and lacks depth. This is a rare flaw, however, and the rest of the time the levels of contrast and depth of image is exactly what one would expect from a recent movie such as this. True, it is never mind blowing in the way that some of the very best transfers have been, but it is certainly more than adequate.
Unfortunately, the quality of the transfer also highlights the main flaw of the film. What did the filmmakers decide to do with a story set on a Greek Island? Film it in a studio in England. This means the use of blue-screen background is prevalent and really does detract from the overall experience. The weird effect is that the focus looks slightly lacking in these scenes. Add to this a ramping up of the colour levels artificially, meaning faces look waxy, and you have a very poor picture indeed. To be fair, this is certainly faithful to the way the film was presented in the cinema - but it is not an area of the transfer that impresses. Contrast this with the scenes that were shot on location. They look far sharper, and colours seem more natural and skin tones less waxy.
The trouble is, of course, what we are rating here is how accurately the Blu-ray presents the film as it was shot and in this respect there is really no way you can fault it. Any inherent faults here are exactly the same as the film was seen as the cinema - just be aware that this is absolutely not a reference disc.
Mamma Mia! is presented with an English Master Audio DTS-HD 5.1 mix, and I was looking forward to seeing how it performed. The film was not noticeable for its aggressive use of surround sound, or even of punchy bass - so I was keen to see if the Blu-ray would rectify this.
For a start, full envelopment is as lacking here as it was in the cinema. The mix may as well be a stereo mix for the little use made of the rear channels. However, the precision of the stereo effects is genuinely excellent with a nice anchoring of the dialogue into the centre.
Bass is certainly a lot punchier than it seemed in the cinema, but the music generally has a rather strange, slightly muddy effect to it. Listening to the soundtrack CD (yes, I do own it) the music sounds clearer and better produced than the mixes on the film soundtrack. I have no idea why this is, and I am not saying that the film soundtrack is bad, necessarily. It is just that things don't seem to be as clear as they could be.
There is a sing-along version available - but this is exactly the same soundtrack just with subtitles added.
There are a decent bunch of extras here, and although they are a little saccharine at times - they still entertain.
We start with an audio commentary featuring the director Phylidda Lloyd. She has no support on this track, and although she can pause frequently she genuinely comes across as a really nice person. She does justify the decision to film mainly on soundstages (although I still have a big problem with it), and delves into some technical details but does not really go into any issue in any great depth. It would have been nice to hear some more detail about the music, with Bjorn and Benny - or maybe some insight from the actors, but Lloyd is a genuinely engaging companion.
Then we move onto the documentaries, starting with the 25 minute The Making of Mamma Mia!. This is your typical fluff EPK piece, which does have some interesting behind the scenes materials of vocal rehearsals, and the set. But it is so gushing in its praise it does come across as a little sycophantic - as these things often do. Becoming a Singer is potentially fascinating stuff, as Benny and Bjorn show us how they brought the original musicians back together to record the backing tracks. They then go on to show us the vocal rehearsals. What little is here is riveting, but sadly 11 minutes is nowhere near enough time. Just as it starts to get interesting, it just stops.
The quality of the extras then decrease markedly with the very short (less than five minute) featurettes Anatomy of a musical number, and A look inside Mamma Mia!. Neither of which are interesting enough to sustain more than one viewing.
The package is rounded off by a few deleted scenes including the cut song The Name of the Game, and the rather good music video for Gimme Gimme Gimme
We then come across some exclusive to Blu-ray features that can only be produced on this format, and full marks for including these. There is a PIP Feature which is entertaining, but a little sparse. There is also a pop up discography which tells you about the history of the songs, and finally the ability to record your own video commentary which I am sad to say I didn't try.
Mamma Mia! seems like it should have been a disaster, and indeed many would say it was. However, I am not one of these. I found the movie surprisingly enjoyable and moving, which integrated the source songs well in order to tell its story. It may be slightly amateurish in places, but this adds to the charm of the film. The actors are having fun, and despite some poor directorial choices the film is still very enjoyable.
The picture is faithful to the original cinema presentation, even though it is not a transfer that stands comparable to the best HD discs available for the home, the sound is well mixed, if not truly enveloping, and the extras package is wide ranging, even though when you delve in there is not much depth to the featurettes.
At the end of the day, I can only recommend this disc as one that I think does reasonable justice to the film. There may be flaws here, but the whole package has a certain attraction and the main movie is a true family film that will stand up to repeated viewings.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £39.98
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