The Producers - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette; Blooper Reel; Deleted Scenes; Director Commentary; Audio Described.
HAVING first won over audiences as a film in 1968 (starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel), The Producers then enjoyed a record-breaking Broadway run with the successful pairing of Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, during which it won countless awards and was generally considered to be the hottest ticket on the planet.
Little wonder, then, that the success of that show has prompted Hollywood to revive the partnership in celluloid form in a bid to reap the benefits of such acclaim. Hence, Lane and Broderick get to delight audiences once more, while newcomers Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell get to showcase some surprisingly adept song and dance skills as well.
The plot remains largely the same. Fading Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Lane) is on the verge of bankruptcy when he meets his exceptionally neurotic accountant, Leo Bloom (Broderick), who dreams of becoming a producer himself.
When Bloom inadvertently suggests that the best way for Max to continue making money is to deliberately stage an intentional flop by raising more investment than necessary and pocketing the difference, the stage is quite literally set for the biggest con in theatrical history.
Hence, the duo find a light-hearted musical about the Nazi era, entitled Springtime for Hitler, written by a crazy pigeon-breeder named Franz (Ferrell), and hire the worst possible director in the form of Roger De Bris (Gary Breach), who insists on ‘keeping things gay’ with the help of his overly camp assistant, Carmen Ghia (Roger Bart). They then employ an outrageously sexy Swedish secretary, Ulla (Thurman), as a perk of their spoils and sit back to watch the mayhem unfold, safe in the knowledge that the play cannot possibly work – although you should never say never in showbiz!
The Producers may essentially be a remake of a remake but the fun remains in watching the farce unfold. Lane and Broderick possess such an effortless comic timing that their chemistry is a joy to behold, while the enthusiasm of the cast as a whole is genuinely infectious.
Director Susan Stroman, who won a Tony Award as both director and choreographer of the original Broadway production, injects such gusto into the big numbers that you feel like applauding every song and dance routine, occasionally forgetting that you’re actually sat in a cinema. While the humour is pretty much spot-on, with Lane, especially, ensuring that the generous running time feels more like a breeze than a slog.
He remains the compelling reason for seeing it – whether delivering that sharp inuendo, or singing and dancing his way around Central Park or a rooftop, he positively lives and breathes Bialystock.
Broderick is good, too, having performed the part on countless occasions – although his mannerisms seem a little more rigid and certainly more staged than Lane’s, probably because of the character’s neurosis.
Of the newcomers, Thurman is breathtaking as the sultry Ulla, especially when auditioning for her role, while Ferrell is funny, if a little too madcap for everyone’s liking. He is probably the film’s weakest link but conducts himself remarkably well during the song and dance numbers.
If you loved Gene Wilder’s original, you may still question the need for another film remake (especially if you’ve not seen the show), but fans of the Broadway version (and its West End counterpart) are sure to be hailing this as another hit. The Producers is, at the end of the day, an artistic extravaganza that has proven itself to be equally at home on the stage or the big screen.
The Producers is released on December 26, 2006.
Running time: 2hrs 14mins