The Producers

With this new film version of The Producers, everything goes full circle.  This film adaptation is based on the 2001 Broadway smash thatwon a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.  The musical was based on the classic 1968 Mel Brooks film of the same name.  So in a roundabout way, this is a remake, and everybody knows how good those typically are.  When done correctly, filmed musicals can be fun and inspiring.  The Producers is a big failure.  Most of this is the fault of director Susan Stroman.  Stroman has a wealth of experience on Broadway, and a shelf full of awards to prove it.  This is her first feature film.  She directed and choreographed the Broadway production of The Producers, so she seems like an ideal fit for directing the film, right?

Wrong.  There is a huge difference between the stage and the screen, and Stroman's lack of experience in the latter greatly reduces the experience.  Take a look at other recent musicals.  Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera and Chris Columbus' Rent realized the difference.  Both are extremely experienced directors who translated the films so they would work in a new environment.  Stroman essentially stuck a few cameras at various angles, combined it with a few steadicams, and filmed the musical.  This means that the actors act like they are in a musical, and everything is geared towards a live stage production, not a film.

This means that aside for a few scenes, the sets are pretty static.  Nathan Lane (Disney's Teacher's Pet, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!) and Matthew Broderick (The Last Shot, The Stepford Wives) overact and ham it up to the max, projecting their voices and shouting at a nonexistent audience.  One of the biggest differences between the two mediums is the interaction between the actors and the audience.  The actors can play off audience reactions, and because everything is live, they can act sillier without looking that stupid. They way that Lane and Broderick are acting is good for the stage, but looks horrible on film.

The class story remains the same.  Producer Max Bialystock (Lane) and accountant Leo Bloom (Broderick) realize that they can reap a huge profit on a Broadway flop, and set out to find the worst musical they can.  That musical is Springtime for Hitler, something sure to offend everybody.  Much to their chagrin, it is a huge hit.  Most of the humor is squarely in the vein of Brooks - lowbrow and crude.  The screenplay, by Brooks (Dracula:  Dead and Loving It, Robin Hood:  Men in Tights), who wrote the original film, and Thomas Meehan (Spaceballs, One Magic Christmas), who wrote the stage play, music, and lyrics with Brooks, focuses on the attempts of the duo to stage the production and bilk old lady investors out of their money.  Along the way, they hire a Swedish actress/secretary (Uma Thurman, Prime, Be Cool) and deal with a demented Nazi playwright (Will Ferrell, Wedding Crashers, Bewitched).  It is silly, but the "staged" aspect of the entire spectacle ruins most of the film except for the actual production of Springtime.  The primary reason for the film was the capture the performances of Lane, Broderick, Gary Beach (Man of the Century, Hell Mountain), and Roger Bart (The Stepford Wives, The Insider) on film.  Well, The Producers is on film, but one wishes that they did more than just film the stage version.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 14, Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and references.

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