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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 Doug Bentin

"Catskill ladies, sing this song."
4 stars

There’s no way two performers, even ones as easy to watch as Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, can duplicate the brilliant chemistry of Gene Wilder—one of the half-dozen greatest comic film actors of his generation—and the late Zero Mostel in the 1968 original “The Producers.”

Lane and Broderick, in the new film of that title, based equally on the first version and the Broadway musical created by Mel Brooks, are amiable where their predecessors were manic. Wilder’s Leo Bloom was a man consistently on the verge of sliding from neurosis to insanity, and Mostel’s Max Bialystock maintained a true aura of the danger born of desperation.

Max is a producer of terrible Broadway plays. His latest was a musical version of “Hamlet” called “Funny Boy,” with lyrics like “To be or not to be—you mean a lot to me.” He maintains his career in failure by wooing little old ladies who have too much money. They invest in his shows and he gives them “one last thrill on the way to the cemetery.”

Yes, it’s borderline disgusting and definitely on the wrong side of sensibility, but since when did Mel Brooks bother with correctness? I love the story Roger Ebert tells of being with Brooks on an elevator when the original came out. A woman on the lift with them complained to Brooks that his movie was vulgar. “Madame,” the filmmaker said, “my movies rises beneath bad taste.”

But back to the plot.

Leo is sent to check his books and realizes that if a producer raised a million dollars, put on a show for $100,000 that was guaranteed to flop in a week, he could keep the extra money because no one would examine the books for such a bomb.

Max seduces him into realizing this scheme and the two of them buy a play called “Springtime for Hitler” from an unreconstructed Nazi and hire the worst director in New York to stage this disaster. The production, now a musical, is so wretched, it’s seen as a satire and becomes a huge hit.

Brooks took the story from a Broadway urban legend. In 1968, city folk loved the film and rural folk probably didn’t even bother to see it. It flopped.

This re-telling of the tale isn’t doing all that well at the box office so the concept may ultimately flop again. It shouldn’t because it’s very funny. Yes, it’s that old fashioned borscht belt humor—lots of silly puns, lots of sexist leering at the boys’ new secretary, Ulla (Uma Thurman), lots of Nazi jokes (you read that right—Nazi jokes) at the playwright’s expense (Will Ferrell), and lots of campy gay gags. If this stuff doesn’t make you laugh, nothing in this movie will. Recall Mel Brooks’ films back in the day he was considered Woody Allen’s only seriously funny rival. If you think “Blazing Saddles” still holds up, you’ll love this.

The stage musical was directed by Susan Stroman, and she‘s taken the reins for the film. At 78, perhaps Brooks was too old. I suspect, though, that he liked her work. Their controversial decision was to not translate the play into a cinematic idiom. You’ll never forget you’re watching a filmed stage play. Even the acting remains geared to a live theater, and that’s either part of the movie’s charm—if the whole thing works for you—or the worst decision Brooks and Stroman could have made.

I thought the approach was quaint and rather charming. I enjoyed the performers for doing what they set out to do, which wasn’t channel Mostel and Wilder.

And my taste in comedy is still broad enough to get a kick out of the old stuff. As far as I’m concerned you can’t kill burlesque no matter how many times you try to drive a shtick through its heart.

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originally posted: 01/06/06 03:26:28
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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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