By Kasey Schiedeck | Images property of Universal Pictures
In trying to capitalize on the success of the stage play (a mainstay at last year’s Tony Awards) and the original 1968 film, the filmmakers behind The Producers forgot to consider the theatrical audience. You have to be of a certain age and mindset to enjoy a film like The Producers, the legendary play written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan several decades ago.
The Producers Movie Review
Although unfair to evaluate the film as opposed to its two predecessors, this film version makes it impossible to differentiate between the two. Far too many knockoffs have been allowed.
While faithful to the stage version, the dialogue and song-and-dance routines do not translate well onto film. Where one-liners are hilarious in the presence of real actors and in the comfort and splendor of a theater, director Susan Stroman has forgotten that the very presence on film requires adjustability.
Maybe it’s the story itself: a failing producer (Lane) and his worrywart accountant (Broderick) decided to, as means for writing off two million in debt, create the worst musical production ever invented then make off with their profits and escape to Rio. The hilarity is supposed to come from their venture into lackadaisical acclaim but one hardly contains interest that far. Some help from Will Ferrell as the Nazi worshipping writer of the play, ( ) as director, and ( )’s dutiful assistant/common law partner provide the few funny moments. Uma Thurman also pops in as ( ), the sexy Swedish bombshell the duo hires as an assistant/actress.
Rob Marshall’s 2002 extravaganza Chicago is a good example of a theatrical play done right for viewing on the big screen. The vibrant costumes, likeable cast, catchy tunes, and inspiring dance numbers are far more intriguing. More so than mere visual style and flair was the ability to identify with the story, character, times, etc.. Although lead by the likeable Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick, the film is flat and immature with little life and fewer laughs.
Costner is well cast as the educated and adventurous Beau Burroughs although a fling with both Sarah and Katherine is hard to swallow seeing the three onscreen all at once. I must say that Richard Jenkins as Sarah’s dad and MacClaine as dear old Katherine take the cake with acting credits. Jenkins, also seen in North Country and the recent Fun with Dick and Jane is quite versatile. As always, MacClaine outacts all other who dare to encounter her screen presence with her witty and fierce performance.
Directed by Susan Stroman
Written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Max Bialystock: Nathan Lane
Leo Bloom: Mathew Broderick
Ulla: Uma Thurman
Franz Liebkind: Will Ferrell
Carmen Ghia: Roger Bart
Roger De Bris: Gary Beach