Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Producers

THE PRODUCERS (Susan Stroman, 2005)

A boisterous Broadway producer and a meek accountant scheme to launch a flop and pocket the money they raise in THE PRODUCERS. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprise their lauded turns on the stage as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom. In examining Max’s books, Leo discovers that more money can be made on a failed play than a success. Their search for the perfect dud leads them to the can’t-miss musical SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER, penned by Nazi-loving Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell).

THE PRODUCERS began as a highly admired 1968 Mel Brooks film and in recent years was developed into a smash Broadway musical. This new film of THE PRODUCERS recreates the play, both of which were directed by Susan Stroman. What won acclaim for her and the stage production doesn’t translate to the cinema, though. Shot and edited as though it were made forty years ago, THE PRODUCERS is a creaky relic of the musical’s heyday. Lane’s hammy performance could have been dialed down for the intimacy of film, but his energy is appreciated in this otherwise static film. Broderick’s acting choices, his dialogue delivery in particular, don’t fare as well. He seems better suited for the stage.

There’s a perfunctory feeling coursing through THE PRODUCERS, as if it has been made out of obligation to the success of the play than any passion on the participants’ behalf. The movie plods along until the cast mounts SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER. Here THE PRODUCERS shakes off its showbiz corniness and finds the spark it has lacked. Gary Beach’s queeny interpretation of Hitler is uproariously funny. It also highlights comedy’s power to puncture serious matters. Still, there’s too much to slog through for such inspired moments. Lucky for moviegoers, Brooks’ original film is available and 46 minutes shorter.

Grade: C-

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