The Producers

The Producers

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Play it - for old times' sake. Play it for Zero and Gene and Ken and Dick. Play it again, Mel."

He does. Except this time, there are musical numbers coming at you from every direction and people do that thing they haven't done in decades - Chicago doesn't count, it's in a class of its own - they burst into song in the middle of a sentence and dance around the room as if it's the most natural thing in the world. It looked funny then; it still does.

Copy picture

Remaking Mr Brooks' first and some say best film as a musical worked wonders on Broadway, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and you can see why - it is so theatrical. As a movie (director Susan Stroman is a choreographer by trade), it remains distinctly locked into that formulaic song-and-dance showstopper style and lacks the cinematic inventiveness of - say - Moulin Rouge.

Also - dare one speak it above a whisper? - the songs don't travel. With the exception of the Springtime For Hitler numbers, the melodies are weak and interchangeable, although the lyrics are clever, which is not to say memorable.

The story of charlatan New York producer Max Bialystock, whose love affair with bankruptcy is becoming stage door gossip, and shy, self-effacing accountant Leo Bloom, who has a theory that, with imaginative bookkeeping, you can make a fortune out of a flop, is the same as it ever was.

Max looks for the worst play ever written, hires the worst director and worst cast and opens (hopefully) to the worst notices in the history of theatre criticism. Due to stunning dance routines, that don't fit the worst cast scenario, and a crowd pleasing performance from the queenly Roger De Bris (Gary Beach), whose camp rendition of Hitler is a hoot, it doesn't happen.

Will Ferrell, as the play's Neo Nazi author, has his moments, but the humour is all on one level, or rather one note - LOUD!! Uma Thurman, as a Swedish showbiz ingenue, who becomes Bialystock & Bloom's secretary-stroke-receptionist-stroke-cleaner-stroke-interior decorator-stroke-bit on the side, due to exceptional svelte blondeness and a poor understanding of Americans Engklish, looks like a stork in a chicken run beside Lane and Broderick.

The gay gags are probably the best and if you are into (not literally) limp wristed farce, there is much on display, especially well executed by razor-hipped Roger Bart, as Roger De B's PA- stroke-other half.

Broderick, as Leo, gives a performance, rather than a comic performance, and is effectively timid. Lane's Max steals the show, as he should, considering he has all the best lines.

What is missing is something more than nostalgia; what is missing is a film.

Reviewed on: 14 Dec 2005
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Mel Brooks comes full circle as his film-turned-Broadway-musical is turned back into a film.
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Anton Bitel ***

Director: Susan Stroman

Writer: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan

Starring: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Roger Bart, Gary Beach, Andrea Martin, Debra Monk, Jon Lovitz

Year: 2005

Runtime: 134 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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The Producers