This post is a part of Andrew's Musicals Blog-a-thon. (Sorry for the late entry, Andrew!) Check it out at Encore Entertainment.
Pierce Brosnan was crucified universally for his singing in Mamma Mia!, even earning a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor. I may be the lone voice here, but I found him absolutely great in the movie. He plays it straight, and even though his voice isn't trained, he can carry a tune. It's not like he's tone-deaf. Anyway, there's a certain charm to that rough voice, and while that would be unsuitable for something like Andrew Lloyd Weber or Stephen Sondheim, this is ABBA. Brosnan sounds like someone's dad using the music of his youth to best express how he feels, and he's sincere about it. He's got feeling in his delivery, and that's what I want when someone's singing.
Everyone Says I Love You, Woody Allen's only musical, is based entirely around this idea. Few of the actors can sing or dance; those that can were asked to do so worse. The idea here is that normal, everyday people, not given the gift of Garland, can become so full of emotion and romance that they are compelled to sing despite their own limitations. It's a beautiful and dangerous idea, yet Woody is blessed with actors who can actually carry a tune for the most part.
I mean, he's no Frank Sinatra, but I wish Edward Norton would sing more. He's at least as good as Fred Astaire (though the same cannot be said for his dancing). We never for one moment doubt his sincerity when he croons to Drew Barrymore, "What are your charms for/What are my arms for/Use your imagination!" And honestly, the dorky dance in the Harry Winston number is charming. Norton acquits himself admirably in the first two numbers, and even though it's just a snippet, his portion of "I'm Thru With Love" begs to be expanded into a full solo.
Tim Roth's embarrassingly uncouth ex-convict also gets a moment to shine, as he seduces Miss Barrymore in a rooftop serenade. Drew's been waiting for a knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet, and while Edward Norton's a nice guy, there's no dramatic flair to him. So when Roth corners her on the balcony, immediately names all the places he'd like to diddle her, and finishes off by singing "If I Had You"...well, wouldn't you break off your engagement? Against words like, "I could climb a snow-capped mountain/Sail the mighty ocean wide/I could cross the burning desert/If I had you by my side", Norton's little opener seems...quaint.
But Woody's no fool. Most of the numbers are performed by an ensemble of trained singers. Even though the focus is on ordinary voices singing extraordinary songs, he is at least smart enough not to spend so much time on the more awful singers, even cutting away from himself after only getting a few lines into "I'm Thru with Love". (This, by the way, is smart. Not only are we spared Woody's straining vocals, but it furthers the impact of his despair by not allowing him to finish.) Drew Barrymore was dubbed over by Olivia Hayman when she and Woody agreed that her voice was beyond the levels of human tolerance. She has since appeared as a singer in Lucky You and a songwriter in Music and Lyrics. Only Julia Roberts stands out as having the longest song and the worst voice.
His greatest choice? Saving the best for last. Goldie Hawn is the only trained singer and dancer in the cast. Woody even asked her to try singing worse so that she'd more believable. Yet he also gives her the best number, the full version of "I'm Thru With Love", sung by the Seine, culminating in a dance that reminds us of the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s. It's romantic and magical, and is about 60% of the reason why Everyone Says I Love You is my second favorite movie (Nashville, another unconventional musical, is my Number One).
(The dialogue is dubbed into Italian, I believe. Enjoy the song, though)