First off lets get one thing clear. This is a movie produced by and presented by Guillermo Del Toro but this is not his film. Now that that's established lets look at the film about two small girls left for dead by their father who are raised by a benevolent spirit they call Mama. There are a few spoilers in this review so please beware.
Mama is the new film from Andres Muschietti produced by Guillermo Del Toro and stars Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, and Isabelle Nélisse. It starts out great with the tragedy of the stock market crash causing the two girls father Jeffery to kill their mother and kidnap the girls before trying to dispose of them too. The girls live and for the next five years remain in the cabin. Unbeknownst to the world the girls have a new guardian that keeps the girls alive by teaching them survival tactics and feeding them cherries. Jeff’s twin brother Lucas (both roles played by Coster-Waldau) has not stop looking for his brother and nieces and just when luck is running out for him and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) the girls are found. Soon after the girls are taken to a hospital and put under observation to monitor their strange and dangerous behavior.
The best thing about Mama hands down is the performances of the girls. They are truly the only reason this movie works at all. You really have to give credit to all involved in keeping the girls in character because they really played their parts. After watching Mama the only thing I wanted to discuss was the girls and their roles in the film. Its not that the adults were bad per say, we all know these are great actors, its just the kids stuck out where the adults could have been anyone in the film. The girls made you feel sympathetic to them as they really never had a chance of being anything less than primitive due to their environment. The presence of Mama is felt throughout the film. To the point where it was a little too much. This film had the capabilities of being truly scary but lost out due to too many jump scares and bad CGI techniques.
The look of Mama was fine. Overall she was scary as hell. The problem is by the time they showed her they showed so much other stuff from her that It was hard to be afraid. I recall telling myself that I can’t wait to they show her because that would mean the film would be over but I was so wrong. I don’t think I can ever recall a film that had this must interaction with the object we were supposed to fear the most. I almost stayed to see how they represented her in the credits. CGI doesn't bother me as it does most but when it’s overdone I start to get annoyed because it seems like the direction of the film is more focused on the look of Mama then the story.
The story was actually pretty good and if told a different way would have made this movie significantly better. From the beginning the premise was clear and even though there is a slight twist at the end it pretty much holds up throughout. The parts involving the Aunt and Dr sometimes seem unnecessary and hurts the progress of the movie. This type of film you don’t want to be too slow but there was no way around it in Mama. It was nice to see them dig up the story to find out who she was but the dreams? Really? I’m all about ghost communication but why is the ghost showing dreams of her past to the woman she is trying to take them from? Chastain holds her own for the most part of the film even know her character was horrible. The punk rock band girl who has to now become a mother? Not believable at all and if you can look past the horrible Girl with the Dragon Tattoo look of her she does remind you she is a good actress.
Mama had a ton of potential but fell short with a lukewarm drawn out story line and over exposure of the title character. One day I hope filmmakers will remember that supernatural movies are very hard to do, and CGI always leads to some criticism. But a well paced story, good acting and the intention to scare you not just make you jump, will always be the formula for a successful ghost story. One out of three isn't bad but isn't good enough to waste your time and money on Mama wait for this one on the rental shelves!