The Producers (2005)
(Wide Release Date: December 25, 2005)
(Limited Release Date: December 16, 2005)

Springtime for Mel Brooks and Universal!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

Mel Brooks has always walked a fine and risky line when it comes to that which is "Politically Correct". Never more so than with 1968's The Producers... well, there was that whole Blazing Saddles thing, but I digress. Both movies are the sort of experiences that give the viewer a very uncomfortable sort of laughter, usually followed by the comment of "there's no way they'd get away with this today". Well, that last suggestion would be wrong... so wrong, man. Old Mel brought The Producers, a movie about making a musical, to Broadway... as a musical. When a musical based on a movie about a musical becomes a hit on Broadway, what's left to do? Turn it into a movie, of course. With the help of director Susan Stroman and co-writer Thomas Meehan, Mel's play has made it to the screen pretty well intact, with one new song (hoping for some awards, natch) and, like Rent before it, quite a chunk of the original cast.

While this isn't the first time Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane have been in a movie musical together, however, in The Lion King you couldn't see their faces (only their cartoon counterparts) and in The Lion King I don't remember Neo-Nazi songs written by a Jewish guy and sung in such an ironic fashion that it comes off as right as rain. Well, actually, I've never really gotten the literal translation of "Hakuna Matata", so...

While The Producers gets an A+ for remaining faithful to the look and feel of a real stage show, this can also be somewhat of a drawback. Years ago as I was watching 1776, my dear old Ma said to me "This might have been a good play, but it's a stupid movie!" After an indignant flood of profanity, I got back to chanting "New York! New York! Livingston's going to Pop a Cork!", not getting it at all. Now, I think I do. The characters here are so over-the-top, so over expressive, so cartoonish that they smear "Farce" against the wall and push the boundaries of straight-jacket marshmallow roasts. However, somehow this tale of an accountant named Leo Bloom (Broderick) who finds himself in a fraudulent scheme with fallen producer Max Bialystock (Lane) manages to work.

Poor Max has busied himself lately with the worst plays ever staged (so bad that the "Opening Night" and "Closing Night" signs share the same hinge). His M.O. is prostituting himself to little old ladies in the hopes of their monetary "support of the arts". When Leo is sent to audit Max's books he discovers that with the proper plan a producer could make more money with a flop than a hit. All Max has to do is convince the pusillanimous Leo to help him produce the biggest flop in history... and prostitute himself to a geriatric harem to obtain the funding to do so. And, of course, all along the way there must be song after song after song.

Luckily, or unluckily as the point of view may be, they find the worst musical ever written... "the mother lode"! It's called Springtime for Hitler and was written by the psychotic neo nazi Franz Liebkind (a hilariously unleashed Will Ferrell). While that's most certainly a mixed blessing, the one straight-forward good news is the presence of starlet (and erstwhile secretary) Ulla. As portrayed by the vivacious Uma Thurman, Ulla is both hilarious and incredibly hot (you have to see her)! Throw in Gary Beach as Roger De Bris, the worst director in town, Roger Bart as his uber-flaming assistant Carmen Ghia and a healthy dose of The Village People and your flop is all but guaranteed! Getting there and seeing what happens before during and after is the fun here... especially when Uma's on screen (ULLA DANCE AGAIN!).

The Producers isn't perfect, even though it is strikingly hilarious. Some of the overacting can be a bit grating and the film overstays its welcome by a good five minutes. Still, at its worst, it's still a fine slice of Mel Brooks, and the laughs are significant. The music is great and the songs (which you don't dare sing along with) are as catchy as they get. The cast is further complimented by a boat-load of cameo appearances, including David Huddleston, Ronn Carroll, Michael McKean, Thomas Meehan (the co-writer himself), Jon Lovitz and (if you look and listen very, very closely), Mel Brooks!

All in all, this is a movie made for play patrons, and most should be pretty darned pleased with the results. Mainstream audiences might be a bit turned off by the "theatre" feel, and play fans might not show up for a movie. Where the twain should meet The Producers will definitely attract fans. Four Stars out of Five for The Producers. It might not be as tight as Uma's dress, but it's a fun ride with lots of laughs (even and especially when you shake your head and say "That's so wrong, man!"). It's worth buying for Uma's various stages of dress and undress especially during her opening dance (during which we all got a "standing ovation"). Anyway, if you'll excuse me, I just found out that I could make a fortune by running an ironically titled web site that most people would consider the worst in the world. I think I've got some ideas, but the way "attract" investors has me a little nervous. We'll see how it works out. See you in the next fine and risky reel... that's so wrong, man!

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The Producers (2005) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is responsible for the content of this site and his desire for a stage version of Blazing Saddles... could it be more wrong than this?
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Mel Brooks, really cooks.