Tuesday, December 27, 2005

REVIEW: The Producers (2005)

Now this is just downright incestuous. Here's a movie version of the broadway musical version of a movie about broadway musicals. It's damn funny, overall, so the snake-eating-it's-tail aspect of this is mostly forgivable.

The story is the same as the 1970s Mel Brooks classic that inspired the musical: Failed broadway producer Max Bialystock and unstable accountant Leopold Bloom have stumbled on a scheme to bilk investors out of a fortune by overselling a play garaunteed to fail: A pro-Nazi romp called "Springtime for Hitler" written by crazed Nazi Hanz Leibkind. Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane replace Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel as Leo and Max, while pun-heavy song numbers replace (most of) the original's zany wordplay. Will Ferrell turns up as Leibkind, and Uma Thurman steals huge chunks of the film as Ulla the Swedish secretary.

Like all the best of Brooks' material, the film coasts on wicked fusion of bad taste, absurdity and time-tested Friar's Club-ready schtick. The songs are catchy and the dances, while nothing amazingly complex, are great peices of physical comedy. Material-wise, and certainly performance-wise, the film works.

What fails to work is much of the direction and staging, courtesy of Susan Strohman. She directed the broadway version, by all accounts to great effect, but seems quite out of her element working with film. Too many scenes lack flair and composition, and someone seems to have neglected to instruct Broderick in the vocal difference between onstage emoting and onscreen emoting in a few too many scenes.

As mentioned above, the actors all aquit themselves nicely but Uma steals the show. Looking sexier than she has in awhile and showing off muy-impressive dancing and singing skills, she checks yet MORE items off of the "things Uma can do" list, a feat some thought impossible after her turn in the "Kill Bill" cycle.

Cute movie. Nothing to write home about, not a prizewinner, but fun.