The Producers (2005)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 59%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,004
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Nathan Lane
Nathan Lane
Matthew Broderick
Matthew Broderick
Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman
Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell
Gary Beach
Gary Beach
Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 04, 2006
If only Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were alive today to see the revival of the Hollywood movie musical. After a long and unfortunate drought, "Chicago" paved the way for many musical adaptations to follow, most of which proving to be worthy additions to the genre. "Rent" was one of the finest films of 2005. Sure, "Phantom of the Opera" was a complete disaster, but one bad apple does not spoil the whole barrel, contrary to popular belief. In the months to come, we will see adaptations of "Dreamgirls", "Sweeney Todd", and the recently announced "Mary Poppins". That brings us to "The Producers", regarded by some as one of the lightest and brightest shows to hit Broadway in years, and by others as one of the worst examples of what Broadway has become. I guess I am torn between those two depictions. While the Broadway show of "The Producers" is certainly not one of the better musicals to come along recently, it does have that old Broadway feel to it, kind of like something you would expect from "Guys and Dolls" or "Kiss Me Kate". The show just feels like a revival, even though it is a Mel Brooks original. The film, however, suffers from the feel of the show. It seems to much like a show, and not like a motion picture. The acting is totally over-the-top, the direction is all flash and jazz, and the musical numbers are so outlandish and so huge that we never get the sense that this is anything other than a filmed Broadway production showing on the big screen. That is not good, especially when it is a film you are seeing.

The musical, like the original film version, tells the story of two men who become partners and conspire to produce the worst musical in the history of theatre. Nathan Lane stars as Max Bialystock, who sleeps with horny old women for the money to produce his flops. One day, Max meets Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick), an accountant who has always had one desire - to be a Broadway producer. When Leo explains to Max that is a producer could make more money on a flop than a hit, ideas start to hatch in the underhanded Bialystock's brain. Together, they conjure a plan to find the worst musical ever written and stage it, making them millionaires. This musical comes in the form of "Springtime for Hitler", written by the Nazi-infatuated Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell). The musical asks, "What if Hitler liked to sing and dance?" The two producers then seek out the worst director in the business, Roger De Bris (Gary Beach) and his partner/assistant Carmen (Roger Bart), and the stage is set. Alas, more people respond to the musical that expected, sending both Max and Leo into a world of hurt. Uma Thurman co-stars as Ulla, the sexy Swedish actress who becomes their secretary, and Leo's object of affection. So, you see, the plot is identical to that of the original film, except this one is set to music and features more overzealous performances that you would ever expect from Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. These guys are on Broadway acid.

THE PLAYERS : Bringing back most of the original Broadway cast was a good thing. As over-the-top as the performances are, it helps to have people familiar with the material, especially those who obviously love what they are doing. Nathan Lane, one of the most thoroughly entertaining people in the world, is on fire as Max, managing to keep his performance down to earth and just as nutty and deviant as it needs to be. He is, without a doubt, the star of this film, just as he was the scene stealing star of "The Birdcage". Even his voice stole "The Lion King". Matthew Broderick is all over the map as Leo, never seeming to find the right note in the film. When he goes into his raves and fits for his blanket, it is a bit too much to take in, especially coming from Broderick, who does not play crazy very well. Nathan Lane seemed more like the reserved accountant, at times, and Broderick more like the eccentric producer/extortion artist. Uma Thurman merely blends into the scene as Ulla, a role that could have gone to a number of more qualified actresses. Gary Beach and Roger Bart provide the biggest laughs in the film, though their performances, like Broderick's, are just a little too over-the-top for a motion picture. You can see why they are perfect for the roles, but I just couldn't help but think - "Calm down, guys, less is more - less is more."

THE PRODUCTION: Director Susan Stroman obviously went with the 'bigger is better' theory of film-making for her first directorial effort. The set pieces are enormous, the set designs extravagant, and the lights as bright as they can possibly be. I even noticed a spotlight during a couple of the scenes - a spotlight...for a motion picture! Also serving as choreographer, Stroman did manage to give us some musical numbers to remember, especially when Nathan Lane pays a visit to hundreds of his little old lady contributors, or when Gary Beach takes the stage to don the role of the Great Dictator himself. The musical numbers are all entertaining and gorgeously staged, but their lead-ins and lead-outs turn them into something not quite sure as to what it is. Maybe that sounds vague - it doesn't know if it wants to be a film or a theatrical production, but that is the feeling I got throughout the entire film. It never could make up its mind. By the time it did, I had already subscribed myself to the belief that this was just one of those musicals that might have been better off having stayed off the big screen. No offense to the cast and crew...it just didn't click.

When Mel Brooks pops up at the end of the credits, the film scored bonus points from me, but that was still not enough for me to say to non-musical fans, "This will make you change your mind." Most likely, it will not. At a ways over two hours, this musical will seem like a long investment of your time. If you are a fan of the Broadway show, you might very well love this adaptation because, believes me when I tell you, they couldn't be more similar. Nathan Lane and Gary Beach gives exquisite performances, Matthew Broderick and Roger Bart take it a little too far, Will Ferrell is far better than he should be, and Uma Thurman just does...well...nothing. "The Producers", as a remake, does not surpass the Gene Wilder/Zero Mostel originator. "The Producers", as a musical adaptation, does not provide the kind of 'umph' needs to take it to the next level. "The Producers", as a comedy...works. Maybe that is the trick. If you go in expecting to laugh, then you might not be disappointed. Go in expecting a comedy and you might be pleasantly surprised. I went in expecting a musical, and that is what I received - not a motion picture - but a musical.

Ginose #1: Ginose - added 02/02/2006, 01:48 PM
I gave it almost perfect... but to be honest.: I give it "Crap" if compared to the originals. Will ferral isn't funny and he never will be...
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