More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

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

Latest Reviews

Lucky Grandma by Jay Seaver

Vast of Night, The by Peter Sobczynski

High Note, The by Peter Sobczynski

Taking of Tiger Mountain, The by Jay Seaver

Trip to Greece, The by Peter Sobczynski

Night God by Jay Seaver

Alice (2019) by Jay Seaver

On a Magical Night (Chambre 212) by Jay Seaver

Driveways by Jay Seaver

Free Country by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Producers, The (2005)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by EricDSnider

"Is it funny? Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss."
4 stars

"The Producers" is a movie based on a play that was based on a movie ABOUT a play. But don't worry: Mel Brooks wrote it, so you know it's not going to be TOO thinky.

Brooks' 1968 film about a schlocky Broadway producer who sets out to stage the worst play he can find was Brooks' first feature and still one of his best. It wasn't a musical, but it featured one legendary song: "Springtime for Hitler," the title number from the pro-Fuhrer play that the producer believes fits the bill as "worst ever."

From there, Brooks expanded his story into the full-fledged 2001 Broadway musical that starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and earned a record 12 Tony Awards. Now director Susan Stroman recreates her stage version for the big screen, retaining most (but not all) of the comedic mayhem that slew thousands of theatergoers. (I was lucky enough to be in New York just after the show opened, and to have bought a ticket months earlier, when you could still get one. It was worth whatever outrageous amount of money I paid for it.)

Lane plays Max Bialystock, a down-on-his luck producer whose "Funny Boy" (a musical version of "Hamlet") has just closed after one performance. One performance is about his average lately; the audience and critical reactions are usually savage enough to prevent any further exhibitions of his theatrical mediocrities. Yet he remains afloat by wooing little old ladies and getting them to back his plays, since they're old and wealthy and lonely enough not to care if their investments are ever returned. To make matters easy when it comes to writing out checks, he tells them the show is called "Cash."

Leo Bloom (Broderick) is the mousy accountant assigned to go over Max's books, and while thinking aloud, he notices something: If you don't mind breaking the law, you could make more money with a flop than with a hit. Say the show will cost $100,000 to mount. Simply collect far more than that -- say, $2 million -- from investors, promising them each, I don't know, 50 percent of the returns. If the show bombs, there are no returns, and thus no need to pay anyone back, and you pocket the $1.9 million difference (and flee to Rio, of course). Now, if the show is a hit, then you have to pay back several thousand percent to a lot of angry backers, and you go to jail for fraud.

But if anyone can stage a flop, it's Max Bialystock. Playing on Leo's lifelong affection for the theater, he convinces him to help pull the con, which of course will require a play that is BOUND to fail. The play they choose is a musical called "Springtime for Hitler," written by an affirmed pigeon-raising Nazi named Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell), who is thrilled that someone wants to produce his love letter to Der Fuhrer. Since he's so at-one with Hitler, in fact, he's cast to play him.

What else do you need? A bad director, of course. Max and Leo locate Roger De Bris (Gary Beach), a flamboyant purveyor of fluffy mass entertainment who is aided, in matters theatrical and personal, by his "common law assistant" Carmen Ghia (Roger Bart). Roger's philosophy is that audiences don't want anything serious: "Keep it light, keep it bright, keep it gay," he sings, in a song full of that broad Brooksian double-entendre and gleeful political incorrectness.

The big joke of "The Producers" is that "Springtime for Hitler," despite all efforts to the contrary, is a huge hit. Audiences see it as an ironic spoof of Nazism, not as the celebration of it that Franz Liebkind intended. This element of the film is even more relevant now, in the Age of Irony, than it was in 1968. At that time, the audience in the film taking "Springtime for Hitler" as a parody was a crazy, unforeseeable outcome. Today, we see things ironically all the time. (Just this year, Showtime aired a remake of the old film "Reefer Madness," no longer a cautionary tale against marijuana but a SPOOF of cautionary tales against marijuana.)

Stroman, in her debut as a film director, captures most of the frenetic energy of the stage show. It's impossible to do it exactly, of course, especially when so much of the performance depends on playing off the audience. But the fact that Lane and Broderick worked opposite each other for several hundred performances is evident. They operate like a finely crafted old-time comedy duo, perfectly in tune with each other and both intently focused on being not just funny, but funny in a big, madcap way.

Lane is the standout, just as he was on Broadway. He embodies Max with a mad, farcical zeal. It was dazzling to contemplate how much energy he expended onstage. Even knowing the film was shot over the course of weeks, it's still exhausting to watch him as he launches from song to song and joke to joke like a chubby little laugh-seeking missile. His mid-show song "Betrayed" -- in which he summarizes the entire show thus far in one crazed musical number -- is a showstopper.

Their praises are not as widely sung, but Gary Beach and Roger Bart as Roger and Carmen must be cited for their hysterical performances as well. They're also from the Broadway cast, and their scenes together are just as rife with comic genius as Broderick and Lane's, every inflection and every movement just as silly and goofy as you please. (It's not a spoiler to mention that Roger De Bris winds up playing Hitler onstage, and his big number -- "Heil Myself" -- is a Liza-inspired tour-de-force of parody and physical comedy.)

Ferrell acquits himself well enough as Franz, and Uma Thurman does a surprisingly good job as Ulla, Max and Leo's buxom Swedish receptionist. In fact, Stroman directs the entire cast to a uniform style of over-the-top, setup/punchline acting that benefits the material immensely. Like most good movie musicals, there is no attempt to make it seem "real." Such an effort would be useless, because no scene that involves people spontaneous breaking into song is ever going to be "real." Instead, Stroman's cast uses a stylized delivery -- not "realistic," exactly, but believable within its own bizarre world. You don't believe a regular person would ever say or do this stuff, but you believe that characters in a musical would, and more specifically that THESE characters would.

The text of the film (written by Brooks and Thomas Meehan from their Broadway script) offers no clues about when it is set. But Stroman has done a very wise thing, which is to give it the look and feel of the mid-60s. Not only does that match the time period of the original film -- and Stroman even stages some of the comedy to resemble the way Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder played it in '68 -- but it's also when movie musicals were far more common than they are today. Watching "The Producers," then, is not as jarring as watching musicals can sometimes be (though it does take a few minutes to warm up before it really kicks into high gear). Stroman's vision favors long takes, is filmed with vibrant colors, and features costumes, sets and music reminiscent of the old-style widescreen Technicolor musicals.

The humor is large, loud and fast-paced, rarely subtle. Watching it is like watching an old movie -- a raucous, randy, delightful old movie.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/21/05 12:27:34
[printer] printer-friendly format  

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
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  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

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast