We have all heard the phrase “lavish Broadway musical”, and now that term is coming to the big screen in a BIG way.
The Producers was first introduced to audiences back in 1968 when Mel Brooks hit the scene as writer and director of the Oscar winning feature. Brooks then took the story to the stage as Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick gave Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom new life in a new way, as a Broadway musical. You see the original film was not entirely musical, but the Broadway play was and once that came to an end there was only one way to keep the feeling alive… bring it back to the big screen, but not in the way it originally appeared. This time they bring the actual stage play to the screen and it has its hits… and misses.
Quickly to the plot. The Producers follows Bialystock, a scheming theatrical producer, and his neurotic accountant, Bloom, and as all of Bialystock’s plays seem to be opening and closing on one night Bloom stumbles on an idea that a play, if approached with the “right” frame of mind, could actually be more successful as a flop than a hit. This, of course, peaks Bialystock’s interest and the race is on to produce the ultimate flop. Little old ladies are used, Hitler comes to the stage and Uma Thurman does the splits. The good is there, but to watch this film you are going to have to take it with the bad.
The bad I am referring to starts and ends with Matthew Broderick, but that statement comes with an asterisk. Broderick’s stage performance as Leo Bloom is considered iconic. I have never seen it so I cannot comment, but I have been told that his performance on the big screen virtually mirrors what he did on the stage. So all I can say is that it may have worked there, but on the big screen it is a bit creepy.
Nathan Lane’s performance as Max Bialystock is intentionally slapstick, and while I have my opinions on that, it is tolerable and even funny at times, but Broderick as Bloom is just weird. Wide eyed, unsure of himself and simply oozing with an “uncomfortable-in-his-own-skin” persona Leo Bloom is so far from relatable I didn’t have a chance at a connection, and I didn’t want one.
The highlights fall all over the place one Matt is out of the way and I am talking about Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Gary Beach and Roger Bart. These four make this movie watchable. They give it reason to be on screen. They provide all the laughs and they provide many.
Uma Thurman plays Ulla, the Swedish secretary-slash-receptionist and would-be showgirl and Ferrell is Franz Liebkind, a neo-Nazi playwright and pigeon fancier responsible for conceiving the “worst play ever written.” If you have seen any of the clips posted here on RopeofSilicon then you already know what these two bring to the film, but that is just the beginning. You haven’t seen anything until Ferrell sings “Haben Sie gehÃƒÂ¶rt das Deutsche band?” and wins the spot of Hitler in his own play.
As for Beach and Bart these two yuck it up as the overly homosexual theatre director Roger De Bris and his assistant Carmen Ghia respectively. Bart you may recognize from the recent season of “Desperate Housewives” where he played neighbor George Williams. Beach’s time has mostly been spent on the stage, but these two make the most of their roles in this film. It all begins with classic song “Keep It Gay” and once you see Beach in his feminine duds you see exactly how over the top this film is willing to go.
Overall this movie would have probably garnered at least a “B” if it weren’t for Broderick’s creepy performance and, considering he is onscreen in virtually every scene, a lot of the film is ruined for me. People who wish to steer clear of anything musical will certainly want to miss this one, and even if you liked Chicago you are going to want to second guess this flick since the music here is nothing like the music there.
The stage play has been brought to the big screen, but I have a feeling there was something lost in the translation.