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  1. #1

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    The Producers trade review

    The Producers By Kirk Honeycutt The Hollywood Reporter

    Perhaps the most telling thing about "The Producers," the film version of Mel Brooks' Broadway musical hit based on his celebrated 1968 film comedy, is that the best two performances belong to Uma Thurman, as a Swedish smorgasbord of feminine delights known as Ulla, and Will Ferrell, as unrepentant Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind. For the film to work, though, the two best roles should belong to Tony-winning Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the title roles.

    Lane and Broderick have played these roles 300-and-something times, and it shows. All of their gestures, grimaces, songs, dances and action have a tired, over-rehearsed quality. Worse, theirs is broad, physical shtick conceived for balcony seats in a theater. Neither actor has rethought his performance for the screen.

    This "Producers," shot almost entirely on soundstages with only a few Manhattan exteriors, represents a historical record of the popular stage show, which earned 12 Tonys. Universal and Columbia Pictures can expect modest boxoffice business from fans of the musical and the fondly remembered original film, but this means an older audience, one more likely to catch up with the film on DVD.

    The new film has an additional handicap. While the reputation of the original film has possibly outstripped its actual artistic achievements, there is no question that the film did contain two insanely talented comedy performers at the top of their game: the late Zero Mostel as morally bankrupt and fading Broadway producer Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as the exceptionally neurotic accountant Leo Bloom. No pair of actors, not even those as gifted as Lane and Broderick, can withstand comparison to the manic inventiveness of the originals.

    The story, save for minor tinkering, remains the same. Max's Broadway career has hit such a low ebb that he must raise money by romancing rich old ladies. When timid and nervous Leo goes over Max's pathetic financial records, he inadvertently hits upon a infallible way to make a fortune on Broadway: Raise more money than you need to stage an intentional flop. No investor will want to examine the books for a turkey, so you pocket the difference.

    The two come up with a sure-fire flop: a lighthearted, revisionist musical about the Nazi era, "Springtime for Hitler." They swiftly secure the rights from the show's pigeon-raising author Franz (Ferrell in sweetly controlled craziness), then hire the worst director imaginable. This would be Roger De Bris (a hilarious Gary Beach), who prefers to wear dresses and, along with his assistant Carmen Ghia (Roger Bart), believes the key to everything is "Keep It Gay."

    As a perk justified by their certain success -- er, failure -- the two producers hire Ulla (Thurman), a luscious blond actress, as their secretary-receptionist. This turns out to be a perk for audiences as well because Uma does Ulla like nobody's business. In her audition number, "When You've Got It, Flaunt It," Thurman puts the voom back into va-va-va-voom and soon has girl-shy Leo's head spinning.

    For that matter, all of Brooks' musical numbers, including the catchy "Springtime for Hitler" from the original film, are clever and fun. Brooks might have had a fine career as a Broadway songwriter and lyricist if he hadn't chosen to become an award-winning film producer, writer, director and actor.

    Understandably, Brooks wanted to turn directing reins over to someone else for this second "Producers." But tapping Susan Stroman, the director and choreographer of the original stage musical, was a mistake. The film needed fresh eyes and an experienced filmmaker to reconceptualize "The Producers" for the screen.

    Her dances, the artificial sets (by Mark Weisberg) and bright costumes (by William Ivey Long) all are terrific if this were a stage show, but unfortunately, it's a movie. John Bailey and Charles Minsky's cameras never quite hit upon a style or movements that might invigorate a stage show the way Stephen Goldblatt did for "Rent."

    "The Producers" is simply a missed opportunity.

    THE PRODUCERS
    Universal Pictures
    Universal and Columbia Pictures present a Brooksfilm production
    Credits:
    Director-choreographer: Susan Stroman
    Screenwriters: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan
    Music-lyrics: Mel Brooks
    Producers: Mel Brooks, Jonathan Sanger
    Directors of photography: John Bailey, Charles Minsky
    Production designer: Mark Weisberg
    Co-producer: Amy Herman
    Costumes: William Ivey Long
    Editor: Steven Weisberg
    Cast:
    Max Bialystock: Nathan Lane
    Leo Bloom: Matthew Broderick
    Ulla: Uma Thurman
    Franz Liebkind: Will Ferrell
    Roger De Bris: Gary Beach
    Carmen Chia: Roger Bart
    Mr. Marks: Jon Lovitz
    Hold Me-Touch Me: Eileen Essell
    MPAA rating PG-13
    Running time 134 minutes
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  2. #2

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    I get the feeling Broderick and Lane will be as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were in the 1 hour specials they did following the 1951-1957 "I love Lucy" run - A "caricature" of themselves. Dry and stale with no spontaneity.

    I wonder if I'll pick up on their delivery since I never saw the play with Broderick and Lane. For me .. the screen version of the Broadway play will be a new experience for me. At least the "musical" aspect .. even though I have seen the 1968 original.

    I'm a bit excited ... as this film continues to keep this genre alive a bit.

    For some 30 years .. the musical has been as dead as the dinosaur. With futile attempts with "Mame", "The Whiz", "Annie", "Newsies" to name a few.

    And though we won't be seeing musicals being pumped out of studios .. much like they were in the studio system days of the 1930s thru 50s ... at least we can count on atleast one decent musical a year.

    - Moulin Rouge in 2000
    - Chicago
    - Phantom of the Opera
    etc.....

    Now "Rent" and "The Producers" ... with a possible remake of "Guys and Dolls", I"m hopeful at least a minor resurgance is going with this genre .. which I feel is one of the most highly artistic forms of "Film".
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  3. #3

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    My experiences with musicals and viewing them on the big screen is pretty much what this critique is about. I've always found the transition either winning or a not a complete.

    Chicago worked because the characters aren't totally likable. Theatre, at least for me, is a live event and there is (albeit, small) a relationship between the audience and the performer. On the Big Screen, that cannot be the case, but it certainly can be implied by an experienced actor/actress. With Chicago, I didn't want to really get to know the characters--they were deceitful and arrogant, likeable only in their humor. Hence the movie worked, critically, for me.

    This review supports my idea, that musicals are a horse of a different color and should be treated as such. I'll still go see it, but from the standpoint mentioned above. It hurts me to think that the concept of the movie musical is dying--it truly is the definition of escapism. I'm afraid that this recent resurgence might be a fluke. Let's hope I'm wrong, I'm willing to flexible.

    Musicals' surreality is similar to what Disney does up best--taking an audience (or a guest in the parks) to a place for a short period of time and having fun.

    You gotta love it. So I'll see this one and Rent (tis the season to be busy, I've not had the time!) and I'll get back to everyone.

    Escape, if you want, we can write a online musical called, "Micechat." An entire digital production. Kicklines and everything. We can have songs like, "Flame," which would sound like "Fame;" songs like, "Thread me out of this brandwidth," you get the picture.

    Please tell me someone is laughing.

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  4. #4

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    Well this film has been out since Sunday what does everyone think about it? I thought it was great personally. I've already seen it twice. If you go to see it be sure and stay after all the credits.
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    Re: The Producers trade review

    Its still in limited release, I think. I did see the National Tour (minus Lane and Broderick) and found it hysterical. My brother and sisters and I laughed so hard, and our seats were rather good, so there were lots of snobby people all around us giving us dirty looks. I enjoyed the musical so much that I hope I am not dissapointed by the movie.
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    Re: The Producers trade review

    I didn't realize it was still in limited release. I thought if it was out in Georgia it must be out everywhere else.
    Tricia Jones:When are men going to learn that women want ROMANCE, not Mr. Toad's Wild Ride...
    Brodie: Hey, now, be fair. EVERYONE wants Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

  7. #7

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    I just saw it late last night and I thought it was hilarious! I personally don't like Gene Wilder so I didn't like the orginal movie. I was so amazed that Will Ferrel could sing and well too. The only person I didn't think was any good was Uma Thurman although I found it extremley amusing that uma played Ulla.

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    ^ Guess I was wrong, I think it is actually in wide release now, for some reason I thought they were releasing it later.
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  9. #9

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    Christmas Day it came out nationally. Still waiting to see it, as it's my work's movie pick for January. Saw the play on Broadway, minus Lane and Broderick and loved it, so I'm hoping I enjoy this as much.
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  10. #10

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    Re: The Producers trade review

    Oh that Ferris!

    When reporters asked Matthew Broderick if wife Sarah Jessica Parker gets jealous of his relationship with this “Producers” co-star Nathan Lane, Broderick quipped, “No, she likes me to have my other life. My dark, gay showbiz life.”

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