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Producers, The

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THE PRODUCERS (movie)

Reviewed by despair

Although many people may think of The Producers as a musical-to-screen adaptation, the root of this movie is a little more complex than that. It was first a successful movie in 1968 by Mel Brooks, and in 2001, he decided to adapt the movie into a Broadway musical. This became a phenomenal hit, bagging a number of Tony Awards and becoming an audience favorite, selling out a year in advance. As the Producers makes its way back to the silver screen, it comes full circle. Unfortunately the movie has not done quite as well as the stage version. The film has a handful of moments which are absolutely fantastic, but they are interspersed with long, tedious scenes, lackluster song and dance numbers, and an inability to end when it should, leading to an excessively long running time and losing much of its steam in the final reels.

Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) is a producer that is long past his prime – producing stinker after stinker, he has to resort to coddling with geriatric women in order to secure funds for his productions. That is, until strait-laced accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) comes knocking on his door, and inadvertently comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme, involving obtaining massive funds to bankroll a musical that is destined to fail, and hence being able to pocket all the money after the production suffers an early demise. After much convincing, Max manages to rope Leo into the nefarious scheme, and the search for the world's worst script begins.

The two producers chance upon Franz Liebkin's (Will Ferrell) incredibly ill-conceived pro-Nazi musical "Springtime for Hitler", and they also manage to convince the impossibly gay director Roger DeBris (Gary Beach), and his very "pink" posse to direct. In the meantime, the very sexy Ulla (Uma Thurman) also comes knocking at their door, and after securing both a role in the musical and a job in the office, Ulla finds herself increasingly attracted to Leo. The entire venture seems destined for failure, but as expected, things do not go the producers' way, and they find themselves in an extremely sticky situation.

Although there are certain high points in The Producers, too much of the movie feels like filler, dragging out the film to over two hours long (although to be fair the musical would probably have been even slightly longer). Without an intermission, The Producers becomes an exercise in tedium. Great scenes like "I Wanna Be A Producer", "When You Got It, Flaunt It" and "Keep It Gay" (with an excellent Roger Bart in a very campy performance) occur too far and few between, and the rest of the song and dance sequences are – to put it kindly – unmemorable. By the time "Prisoners of Love" comes around, I was just glad the movie is ending soon. Fans of the musical will note that three songs are deleted from the movie, but three new songs have been written specially for the film re-adaptation (two that play over the end credits), which about evens out the score.

Susan Stroman, who directed the Broadway stage production, makes her directorial debut with the movie version. Although lauded for her stage work, her film directing leaves much to be desired. The Producers feels too much like a stage musical being recorded live, and Stroman does not make good use of the film medium to make a difference between the two versions. The supporting actors give decent performances, but the lead characters disappoint. Both Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane cannot compare to Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, lacking in chemistry and energy (wild overacting notwithstanding). The Producers shines for only a few brief moments, and it is a difficult movie to sit through, and one that is hard to recommend wholeheartedly.

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of four stars)

Final Word: Woefully uneven film that, on the whole, is hard to warrant a recommendation. ___________________________________________________________________

Reviewed by daface

I enjoyed The Producers more than I enjoyed Rent the musical. Perhaps I'm not as deep and prefer my musicals to be fluffy entertainment, at least for those which made the transition from stage to screen. This Tony Award winning musical by Mel Brooks tells the story of down-on-his-luck Broadway musical producer Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane), and his accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick). Max is an unscrupulous, unethical producer who obtains financing by making the wishes of horny rich old ladies come true, by being their elderly boy toy, while Leo is an aspiring producer wannabe suffering from a case of severe insecurity, who hatches a plan for both of them to strike it rich to the tune of a million dollars each by making a dud musical.

They go all out to find the worst script, Springtime for Hitler, written by Neo-Nazi Franz Liebkin (Will Ferrell, in a better outing than the boring Bewitched), hire the worst director Roger DeBris (Gary Beach), a gay with a gay crew (lead by Roger Bart) decked in Village People outfits who all unanimously agree to make a gay musical, get the worst actors, spiced up with one hot Swedish chick, Ulla (Uma Thurman).

There is plenty of madcap humor and sexual innuendos which keeps things fresh and prevents boredom. The cast obviously seems to be having a riot of a time, with their one-dimensional characters hamming it up. A few scenes stand out given its extended length in song and dance, especially those that involve Max and Leo getting their cast and crew to sign on the dotted line.

In particular, I enjoyed the sequence where they had to convince Franz to give them the rights to his Hitler musical, and it's a hoot to see the "well-trained" animatronic pigeons trained to do the Nazi salute. And who can forget the scene with Roger DeBris as Max and Leo suffers the eccentricities of a director who swings the same way. Uma's scenes are all crazy and funny, as she has to speak with a Swedish accent, that provides many opportunities for puns. And ooh-lala, can she shake that bootie!

We get to see a bit of Springtime for Hitler, but from that point onwards there is a slowdown in pacing for the rest of the musical. It was as if the job has been accomplished, and the plot meanders for that bit of pseudo-soul-searching and forced closure by the characters Max and Leo.

Overall, The Producers is enjoyable, with some humorous songs, and some very niftily choreographed scenes (I dig the one where Leo has gone back to the drudgery of his accounting firm, with robotic co-workers singing about being unhappy). If you're searching for a movie musical to watch, you won’t go too far wrong with The Producers and its zany sense of humor.

From A Nutshell Review [1], reproduced with permission.

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