Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Producers

The Producers is a movie based on a stage play based on a movie, if you can wrap your mind around this concept. It stars, of course, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the two who made it one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time.

I've seen the original movie. I've seen the updated play. I've now seen the 2005 movie. All are worth seeing, but I have to admit, the idea's getting a little old.

I think one of my difficulties with the new movie is the fact that Matthew Broderick's Leo Bloom has obviously said these same words over and over, too many times. Broderick's performance was tired. Nathan Lane's performance as Max Bialystock, on the contrary, seemed still fresh, perhaps because playing over-the-top is easier than being the straight guy, and also probably because it's more fun.

Do I have to tell you the plot here? Okay, okay -- Bialystock is the laughing stock of Broadway, as his musical of Hamlet has hit the skids, closing the same night as the opening night (a running joke here). Bloom wanders in as his new accountant, and just happens to mention that he'd make a lot more money with a flop, as none of the financiers would be expecting their money back. Bialystock and Bloom go into business together and their plan starts to work -- except that "Springtime for Hitler" becomes a major hit because it's so damn silly.

Director Susan Stroman just doesn't show us particular scenes in the funniest way. Two scenes stick out as being much funnier in the stage version: the one where the old women Bialystock is shtupping dance with their walkers, and the other where Bloom is in his office, realizing he's hit a dead end with his accountant's life. The wonderful Jon Lovitz as his boss is practically wasted in the latter scene.

But there are other scenes that shine. Any scene with Will Ferrell, as the Nazi-loving playwright Franz Liebkind, is hilarious, especially if it includes his goose-stepping pigeons. Uma Thurman gets good laughs as Ulla, the tidy-oop secretary. And Nathan Lane is falling-down funny with his one-of-a-kind delivery. And, before I mention this next group of scenes, let me just say that, while I realize that hilarity from gay stereotypes is so 1980's, the scenes with Obviously Gay Director Roger de Bris and his assistant Carmen Ghia are still gut-wrenchingly hilarious. Yesssssssssss.

While I can't agree with the Golden Globes' nomination of The Producers as Best Motion Picture, I can say that this latest of Mel Brooks' musical is worth a look. Thumb's up.


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