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Overall Rating

Awesome: 18.07%
Worth A Look48.19%
Average: 19.28%
Pretty Bad: 3.61%
Total Crap: 10.84%

9 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Producers, The (2005)
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by Erik Childress

"Don’t Be Stupid, Be A Smarty – Come And Join The Brooksi Party"
5 stars

You have to root for Mel Brooks. After a string of some of the best, most memorable and quotable comedies of all time, he went through a critical lashing (most notable in the 90s) when his brand of humor seemed to pass audiences by. Team Zucker/Abrahams reinvented the spoof and Brooks’ attempts came off as stale at best and excruciatingly unfunny at worst. But when you’ve got an Oscar-winning story, flaunt it baby – which is precisely what Brooks did, reimagining The Producers as a Broadway musical (a form it always seemed destined for.) The result was an overwhelming sensation with audiences and a record amount of Tonies which helped to remind us how lovable and brilliant Brooks can be when he’s on his game. Granted, many of the film’s jokes were originally heard in 1968, but with 40 extra minutes and a smooth reworking of some of the elements into musical numbers, The Producers is as funny as it ever was and ranks only behind The 40 Year-Old Virgin as the film with the highest laugh quotient of the year.

The first thing you should do if you haven’t seen the stage version is to prepare for a bit of separation from what you remember about the movie (if you had seen that and shame on you if you haven’t.) Most notably the first meeting of Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) and Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) which as originally played by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder is one of the most brilliantly conceived bits of comic writing and performance in film history. Broderick can never match up to Wilder’s manic ramblings in this scene, giving Wilder the beef that didn’t hold up to scrutiny when he claimed the same about Johnny Depp and Willy Wonka. That’s more unfortunate baggage than Broderick’s fault who, outside of his introductory moments, makes Bloom his own just as the musical does.

For a refresher course, the opening number calculates the numerous miscalculations by Bialystock on Broadway, a notorious flopmeister who raises his money by shtupping old ladies. His new accountant, the clinically fickle Bloom, thinks out loud about how a producer can raise more dough than the play is worth thus turning a profit if it turns out to be a flop. It’s a brainstorm that Max can’t resist and begins looking day and night for a play that will “close on page four.” (One of my favorite lines ever.) Buried within the pile of manuscripts like a corpse in a bunker is the utterly insane, “Springtime For Hitler” written by the goose-stompin’ Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell) whose loyalty to his Fuhrer is outmatched only by Max’s desire for greenbacks.

With the scheme coming together and more than a few musical numbers just adding laughs to already one of the funniest films in history, the true showstopper has still yet to enter the door. That would be Ulla, or to give her the true due, Uma Thurman. If this was 1968, Uuuma would be doing nothing but shaking her assets to the delight of Max, Leo and the audience. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But Brooks, perhaps warmed over a little by the progress of the fairer sex, has transformed the booty-quivering secretary into a beautifully dim actress who’s GOT it and FLAUNTS it to the delight of Max, Leo and the audience. OK, maybe Brooks hasn’t grown as much as everyone else after Ulla’s first song-and-dance, but it gives Thurman precisely the role that will have voters giving her a standing ovation (sitting down or not.) With due respect to Cady Huffman (who won a Tony in the role), Thurman is dynamic in a way we haven’t seen her before combining comedic confidence with the bombshell inspiration of classic musical beauties. This will be the year that Uma wins the Oscar.

The Producers falls within the boundaries of the old classic musicals, before rock operas and gimmicky A.L. Webbers turned spectacle into some gaudy new age resemblance of “art”. (Pause for your own snickering.) It’s still a comedy above all else, but many of the songs (while jokes within themselves) have a showtunes feel to them that is both a comfort and a cheese factor which may occupy the impossible few who aren’t already laughing. Those big orchestral, leg-kickin’ melodies are perfect for the showbiz setting as a definition and a grand parody of the clichés of the NY theater crowd. Numbers like “Keep It Gay” and “I Wanna Be a Producer” are perfect warm-ups to the showstopper that is the immortal “Springtime for Hitler”, which despite having heard it more times than “Happy Birthday”, gets funnier every time I hear it.

With transvestite director, Roger DeBris (Gary Beach) at the helm and assistant, Carmen Ghia (Roger Bart) at his side, The Producers maintains the juvenile humor that Brooks specializes but somehow gives you credit for laughing at such infantile jokes such as the way Carmen greets Max & Leo or Ferrell’s speech-challenged Fuhrer-lover. Any one of these guys is prime nomination fodder and alongside Broderick would take up four of the five Oscar slots if the competition wasn’t so loaded this year. We should be beyond having to defend The Producers’ touchy sensibilities, but in an age where no one is anyone unless they can bitch, there are still those who would have loved to lead the lynching party after the first act of the “gay romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgarden.” I’ll make this very clear and only say it once. If you’re not laughing at The Producers, you have no sense of humor and if you’re somehow offended, you are a moron not worthy of its genius.

I was unfortunate (and I’m sure I’m not alone) to have never seen the Broadway version with Lane & Broderick (or any of their replacements) so I am at a lost to compare how it played on stage. But like most Broadway musicals or any stage production, there’s a theatricality that’s always lost in the translation since the engulfment of the moment and your surroundings (plus the fact that it’s LIVE) will always have that spark of spontaneity. I grant that to everyone who will compare the two and find the movie coming up short. But it’s the magic of the material which makes it great, not the night out on the town. (Even Rent and Phantom were big hits onstage, for God’s sake.) Susan Stroman directs the film as she probably did the musical, with just enough space to let the performers breathe and for the cinematographer’s comfort chair. Plus, it has about as many endings as Return of the King. But without the perspective to fully criticize and over two hours of big, big laughs to occupy your time, who is to notice?

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originally posted: 12/16/05 16:24:09
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User Comments

4/18/07 David Pollastrini it was better on stage 3 stars
12/29/06 Jennifer Raven was this supposed to be funny or stupid? 2 stars
9/01/06 MP Bartley Gaudy, tacky, loud...and it makes no apologies about it. 4 stars
8/16/06 Kathy Wonderful casting; kept my attention and kept me laughing through the whole movie! 5 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist Not too bad, 1 too many perverted 1 liners, but very amusing. 3 stars
7/12/06 David Cohen Hey Broadway, quit ripping off Hollywood. Remeber when musicals were an art in themselves? 2 stars
7/05/06 millersxing A Mel Brooks comedy is no longer water cooler conversation, but it is memorable & funny. 4 stars
6/13/06 Michael Nice review. Thought Uma was fantastic! 4 stars
6/04/06 William Goss Quite amusing, if a bit overlong. Broderick misses the mark in every other scene. 4 stars
6/03/06 San Lamar UMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
6/03/06 Camilla just fun stuff, with the Mel Brooks'touch 3 stars
5/24/06 Becky Hilarious!! "Listen you broken-down old queen..." Lane and Bart are genius! 5 stars
5/03/06 Littlepurch Loved the stage show, and the film is practically as good. Lane is brilliant. 5 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar Neither as bad nor as good as it could have been. 3 stars
2/10/06 Vic i lasted 20 mins..i couldnt stand it it was getting on my nerves it was so badnot even 1st 1 stars
1/30/06 Laura This is really good - definatly worth a watch despite the stagy feel 4 stars
1/29/06 Maz Utter waste of 2 Hours do not see it go and instead belt yourself stupid with a cricket bat 1 stars
1/26/06 john bale Lacking some of the magic of live stage but still terrific. Uma is magic ! 5 stars
1/13/06 Perry Mason you can't replace Willy Wonka with Ferris Bueller. no friggin' way. Just watch it for Uma 1 stars
1/11/06 Mansi Dido Ripper entertainment for all faiths!! 4 stars
1/06/06 RICHARD FABER will ferrill steals the show as the nazi 2 stars
1/01/06 KingNeutron Hilariously over the top, but Broderick could have redone a few scenes. 4 stars
12/31/05 Littlepurch AMAZING! All the cast were good but Nathan Lane was fantastic! Hilarous. Catchy songs too. 5 stars
12/27/05 Luis Bode The stage version on film less a few songs 5 stars
12/27/05 C D Fantastic - don't listen to the stupid critics who trash this movie. Chances are they never 5 stars
12/26/05 Jason Morris Big, brassy Broadway musical-- hilarious from start to finish 5 stars
12/22/05 MrsVoorheesBabyBoy Funnier than the original 4 stars
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  16-Dec-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-May-2006



Directed by
  Susan Stroman

Written by
  Mel Brooks
  Thomas Meehan

  Nathan Lane
  Matthew Broderick
  Uma Thurman
  Will Ferrell
  Gary Beach
  Roger Bart

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