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  ABBA The Movie Thankyou For The Music
Year: 1977
Director: Lasse Hallström
Stars: Anni-Frid Lingstad, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver, Bruce Barry, Stig Anderson
Genre: MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: Ashley (Robert Hughes) is a late night country and western DJ in Australia, happy to spin the records and leave it at that, but today his boss (Bruce Barry) has a project for him. He is baffled that he should be called in to cover, of all things, the week-long tour of the country by Swedish pop sensation ABBA, but the boss believes him to be the best man for the job and won't take no for an answer. Ashley doesn't simply have to report on the concerts, no, he has to secure an interview with the band and as he discovers, this is easier said than done...

Inevitably with almost every mega-selling band, there has to be at some point a cash-in movie, and this was the result of ABBA's endeavours, although unlike, say, The Beatles they don't get to act out roles, as here they are unmistakably themselves: in fact, you get the impression they couldn't be anyone else. The list of Swedish-Australian co-productions is short, but this one is presumably the most successful, most of it taking place Down Under, with only a couple of extravagant helicopter shots of the Swedish landscapes to remind us where the stars hail from - apart from their accents, of course.

Give them credit for wanting to do something different with what could have been a simple concert movie, but the story stuck onto those sequences is perfunctory at best, and if it was intended to raise a few chuckles it doesn't really carry this mission off. Sitcom star Hughes does well enough as the bumbling DJ, but you cannot help but think there must have been easier ways to get an interview than stalking the band and trying to attract their attention every time they are spotted, although to be fair it's Ashley's ineptitude that is meant to be the source of the humour. If his boss had just got that press pass sorted out, then he would have had a lot less trouble.

Perhaps the whole interview angle was not such a bad idea, as it does give the DJ an excuse to be gathering vox pops from the public. A lot of these are very amusing, although they do seem to have exclusively interviewed little kids or at the other end of the scale, middle aged grownups and nobody in the age group in between. All these people absolutely love ABBA, although when pressed as to why, all they can come up with is that they are either clean or they like the beat of their songs, which is fair enough, the public aren't music critics and don't have to rationalise their liking for their favourite tunes.

In fact, all that the fans really need to say is "WE WANT ABBA!", which is what they chant at the top of their voices at every opportunity. But if you were hoping, as Ashley does, for a revealing glimpse behind the showbiz curtain, then the most you get is the stars reviewing their newspaper coverage, coming across as perfectly decent individuals, but never really as interesting as when they are offering up their music to the world. The concert footage is plentiful, and even though this was made at the halfway point in the band's career there are enough recognisable songs amongst those album tracks to bring back the memories. Perhaps the nicest moment comes when Ashley is dreaming of getting close to the band and sees them singing "The Name of the Game" just for him, much to the chagrin of those other journalists. As for the rest, it's not exactly heavyhanded, but it is not lighter than air, either, though a good nostalgia piece.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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