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I don’t know about your mama, but Andres Muschietti’s Mama don’t take you stealing her kids lying down. A surprise hit for Universal when it opened earlier this year, the spookfest “Mama” stars the girl who led the mission to cap Bin Laden’s ass and Jaime Lannister, and arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand this May 7, 2013 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “Mama” will also be available for Digital Downloading on April 23, 2013, for those of you who take part in such futuristic things.
“Mama” stars Jessica Chastain as Annabel, a punk rocker (no, really, she even has a band and her arms are laced with groovy tats) who is thrust into instant motherhood when her boyfriend Lucas (“Game of Thrones’” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) becomes guardian to his brother’s two young girls Victoria and Lilly. The girls went missing 5 years ago along with their dad (also played by Coster-Waldau), but have now been discovered living off the grid in the woods with a mysterious figure they call “mama”. We know that Chastain is not ready for instant motherhood because when we first see her, she’s thanking God for not being pregnant. Hard to play bass in a rock band when you’re preggers, after all.
The couple brings the kids to live with them, and that’s when everything goes nuts. Mama, as it turns out, is very much real. We know this right away when Mama, in all spindly glory dispenses with Dad early in the film, then later comes back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths. Muschietti isn’t hiding the ghostly specter, which was probably the right decision. Mama is realized through CGI, but it’s convincing enough not to distract, though she stays on the screen for much too long towards the end. The horror elements are hit and miss, with a couple of obvious jump scares you’ll see coming a mile away, but there are a couple of good ones sprinkled in there, too.
Muschietti (who co-wrote the script with his sister Barbara) is directing from his own short film, and generally does a good job, even if the film is a tad too bright (lots of “day for night” shooting really cuts into the film’s mood). “Mama” could have definitely benefited from more darkness, grit, and yes, even a low-budget coat of paint. But hey, when Guillermo del Toro shows up with a check from Universal and asks you to make him a big-budget horror movie, you’re not exactly going to say, “No, thanks, I’d rather shoot it for a few thousand bucks instead.” “Mama” is a good horror entry, but the longtime horror fiends out there probably won’t lose too much sleep because of it. You non-horror viewers who stumble across it, on the other hand, might start staring at corners for absolutely no reason after this one.
The kids in “Mama” are great, especially Megan Charpentier, who plays the older Victoria. Isabelle Nélisse as the younger Lilly, who essentially grew up with mama, is precious as all get out. Victoria, meanwhile, still remembers life without mama, and has a much easier time adjusting to Annabel and Lucas. If you saw the short film that the movie is based on, you’ll finally understand why mama was so pissed off at the girls. Coster-Waldau is absent for long stretches of the film, leaving Chastain to carry most of the movie, which she does well enough, though it’s not like she has a lot to do except get the crap scared out of her for most of the film. The adults are fine all around, but it’s really the kids that steal the show. And mama, of course.
Extras on the “Mama” Blu-ray Combo Pack includes feature commentary with Muschietti and his sister/producer Barbara. Andres dominates the track, offering up a variety of inside info on the production, as expected whenever a director gets to talk about his movie without interference. For those who never saw it, you also get the short film that the movie is based on with optional commentary by the siblings and an intro by the film’s producer Guillermo del Toro. There are about 7 minutes of deleted scenes (with more optional commentary by the Muschiettis) to chew on, and two featurettes, “The Birth of Mama” (9 minutes) and “Matriarchal Secrets: The Visual Effects of Mama” (6 minutes). Both are exactly as they sound, with del Toro popping up again in “Birth of Mama”.