By The Hollywood Reporter
"As a movie musical, it's a train wreck." That's how one reviewer greeted Universal's stage-to-film adaptation of "Mamma Mia!" And that review was only one of a batch of disastrous notices.
But even the staunchest detractors conceded the Meryl Streep film's feel-good quality -- "a massive mess, but it's fun ..." and many found "a soft spot for the songs of ABBA."
Fortunately for Universal, "Mamma's" stalwart overseas fan base of mostly women apparently never heard of film critics. Foreign ticket sales stand at more than $300 million, making the film the highest-grossing musical of all time overseas.
The loyal British aficionados of the stage musical and of 1970s Swedish pop group ABBA accounted for more than $100 million of that total. It's the top-grossing film of 2008 in Britain and the fifth-highest ever.
The North American total, meanwhile, was about $139 million.
Universal executives are overwhelmed by "Mamma's" takeoff overseas, where movie musicals do not usually catch on easily.
"It did better than we thought only in terms of its amazing legs," said David Kosse, president of London-based Universal Pictures International. "We knew it would open and play in all markets, not just musical markets, but we did not expect it to be the No. 1 film of the year in about 10 markets."
There are many anecdotal stories about people seeing the film more than once, Kosse said, including one about a woman in Germany who claims to have seen it 71 times.
This just in . . .
Frank Mundus, the New York shark hunter who inspired Peter Benchley to write "Jaws," died on Wednesday in Honolulu, Hawaii of a heart attack. He was 82. In Steven Spielberg's 1975 film's version of the book, he was characterized by the shark-obsessed fisherman Captain Quint (played by Robert Shaw). . . . A memoir by Serena Williams, 26, will be released in 2009 by Grand Central Publishing, which beat out a handful of other publishers bidding for the life story of the No. 1 ranked women's tennis player. Financial terms were not disclosed, although AP reports that a source said bidding reached at least $1.3 million. The official, citing the confidentiality of the negotiations, declined to be identified. . . . Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Margaret Cho are among an all-star lineup of entertainers who will honor the late comedian George Carlin at this year's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The prize was announced just before Carlin's death in June. It will be awarded during a tribute performance Nov. 10 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. The program will be aired later on PBS stations. Others who will honor Carlin include Garry Shandling, Lily Tomlin, Denis Leary, Joan Rivers, Lewis Black and Richard Belzer. The prize is being awarded posthumously for the first time in its 11-year history; last year's honoree was Billy Crystal. (Associated Press)