If you’ve got it, flaunt it and “The Producers” does just that
You would expect two actors who have had more than a year on Broadway to hone their chemistry would be able to channel their stage vibe into a successful big screen performance. And that’s what is most obvious about the very funny and remarkably energetic film version of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers:” Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are a can’t miss duo, and the success (both financial and critical) of the stage musical is easily understandable upon viewing director Susan Stroman’s film of the musical she also directed on stage.
Wisely, Stroman strays little from the stage version. (Why mess with success?) Not only has she kept some of the best actors, but she adds Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell to bring some star power and add some punch to the film’s comic campiness and delightful (if not entirely memorable) showstopping, musical numbers.
Based on Brooks’ less glitzy 1968 film, Lane and Broderick play has-been Broadway director Max Bialystock and milquetoast accountant Leo Bloom, who conspire to make money by producing a flop while keeping for themselves the investors’ money. They find the worst possible playwright (the scene-stealing Ferrell), and a cross-dressing director and his flaming soul mate assistant, (Gary Beach and Roger Bart who also reprise their stage roles). Rounding out the cast is a svelte Swedish secretary, played by the suitably supple Thurman. Together, they hope to produce the fastest-closing show in Broadway history.
Surprise! The show turns out to be a hit.
The comic banter is shticky and altogether hilarious. The musical numbers, lifted right from the stage with their throwback feel to the days of the classic musicals, are brassy and applause inducing (don’t do it, people will stare). As for the humor… Well, if you can’t find something funny about a parody of the Third Reich as in “Springtime for Hitler,” then you won’t appreciate many flavors of Brooks’ politically incorrect insanity.
Surprisingly tame, the film rarely breaches the boundaries of crudity, and stays more silly than anything. Remember, Brooks is the man who elevated campfire flatulence (“Blazing Saddles”) and door knockers (“Young Frankenstein”) into the pantheon of movie history. If even the idea of man in a sequined evening gown offends you, then by all means, run the other direction from “The Producers.” But you’d be missing not only one of the best musical adaptations of a stage show, but arguably the funniest movie of the year.
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual situations, and mature themes.