ABBA: The Movie By Mike White. I had heard Lasse Hallstrom’s ABBA: The Movie likened to Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night...

I had heard Lasse Hallstrom’s ABBA: The Movie likened to Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night. I think that was just someone being lazy because the only similarity between the two is that they both feature mega-star performers. Otherwise, there’s little cheeky on-screen banter between Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha, and Frida, with the story being told primarily through the trials and tribulations of a hapless journalist, Ashley (Robert Hughes), assigned to get an interview with the fab four. This razor-thin plot line gets rather tiresome after a while since he is rebuffed at every attempt. From what I hear, though, ABBA were not informed of Hughes’ involvement with the film and were actually getting pretty tired of this guy causing scenes at their press events. If this movie were remade today, maybe they could get Stuttering John to play the role.

Ashley’s mental anguish takes the form of fantasies of not only meeting the band but playing frisbee and poker with them as well. It’s all pretty goofy but just when you think you can’t take any more of this guy riding around searching for ABBA’s next photo op or calling his boss for his missing press credentials, the "action" is blissfully interrupted with live performances of ABBA.

ABBA perform seventeen songs during these concert sequences. Most of them aren’t the full songs but they’re good enough for me. A lot of concert material comes from ABBA: THE ALBUM (naturally) including a few sections of "The Girl With The Golden Hair" mini-musical which features some silly on-screen antics during the song "I’m A Marionette." Some of this live material can be found on the cd ABBA: Live, along with music from their concert at Wembly arena (which was the basis for ABBA: In Concert—see CdC #6) and their appearance on the Dick Cavett show.

You know you’re in trouble when a movie features a lot of sped-up footage. ABBA: The Movie might have worked a lot better as a documentary about the band or as a concert film. The reporter stuff got old fast and his "man on the street" interviews are rather banal and not that complimentary to the band (nine out of ten people agree, ABBA are "tidy" and "clean-cut" and their music has "a nice beat"—Yawn).

I learned three things from this movie:

  1. I’m not the only one who thinks that Agnetha’s got a pretty bum. The headline after their first Australian appearance was "Agnetha’s Bottom Tops Show."
  2. Bjorn can really rock out! Although he doesn’t sing "Does Your Mother Know" here, he wails on three other tunes.
  3. The backwards "B" is Benny.

Even though ABBA: In Concert was done a few years later, it felt much more fresh than the muddled ABBA: The Movie which was so lame that "Thank You For The Music" was played two complete times in a row at the end; first over some on stage and recording studio footage and then again over the credits (which turn out to be shorter than the song so the it finishes over a minute and a half of black screen!!!) Overall, it’s kind of lame but nice to see just for curiosity sake and to put it in terms of ABBA fans—ABBA: The Movie is to More ABBA Gold as ABBA: In Concert is to ABBA Gold.

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