Starring: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell
Studio: Brooksworks/Universal 28437
Video: 2.40:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, English or French
Subtitles: English captions, Spanish, French
Extras: Deleted scenes (incl. complete musical numbers), Outtakes, Analysis of a Scene: I Wanna Be a Producer, Feature commentary by director Susan Stroman
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes
His original 1968 movie The Producers – probably his funniest – has been recycled quite a bit by Mel Brooks. Many of us consider the original still the best of all, but this filmed version of Brooks’ hugely popular Broadway musical is a lot of fun and a must-see for Brooks’ fans. He wrote all the new music and lyrics in the Broadway version; of course there was a start with the music heard in the original for the supposedly ill-fated show “Springtime for Hitler.” In the process of shooting the filmed version of the musical, a couple new songs were written, but they fail to equal the hits in the original musical.
This filmed version of Brooks’ musical moneymaker didn’t get such good reviews, with opinions that it overdid everything and seemed to try to hard. I found that rather fitting for a Broadway show, and some of the scenes are truly hilarious in their new bigger-budget stagings. The “Keep It Gay” scene is a classic, Will Ferrell is a gas as the neo-Nazi writer of the original Springtime for Hitler, and Uma Thurman is lovely as usual and a better dancer than Broderick. The number with Producer Max Bialystock and the chorus of blue-haired old ladies who invest in his production is carried almost too far, but as usual with Brooks, it’s plenty hilarious. Lane as Bialystock pulls out all the stops, Lisa Minelli-style. One thing that seemed a departure in the filmed musical was the total omission of the scene with Leo the accountant and Max in the bar while Springtime for Hitler was in progress. They don’t discover that their musical which they made every effort to be a flop – so they could abscond with all the money invested in it – was in fact a big hit, until they arrive back at Max’s place and see the reviews reporting that fact. The original film only showed some of the shocked audience leaving the theater at the first number, but this one continues with director Roger de Bris having to substitute for the original Hitler, Ferrell, and hamming it up so well that the audiences love it.
The cinematography is excellent, with plenty of changes of location, and the use of the surround sound is creative. Broderick’s is not a great Broadway voice and Thurman’s Swedish accent comes and goes, but neither detract seriously from the hilarity at hand. Actually, I think many viewers would find more enjoyment and laughs in Mel Brooks’ earlier DVD Recording the Producers – in which you get to sit on on the recording of the original soundtrack for the musical, complete with Brooks’ hilarious introductions and stories.
– John Sunier