Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Producers

The Short Version:
If you like Mel Brooks' movies, you'll like this movie. Probably love it. I personally loved it (most of the time). It's a lot of fun, and is very humorous and entertaining. If Brooks is not your cup of tea, you probably won't like it.

The Longer Version:

The Good

* The classic Mel Brooks humor - the stuff that just makes you say "That is so RONG!" Bloom and his security blanket. Bialystock playing "The Virginal Milk Maid and the Well-Hung Stable Boy" with an 80-year-old woman. The pigeon named Adolf that does the Nazi salute.

* Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick - They know these parts backwards and inside out, and it still looks as if they love to play them. They have a great chemistry, and play off each other flawlessly.

* Will Ferrell - HILARIOUS (as always). The strange thing is that he doesn't seem like he's doing "another wacky Will Ferrell character." And that's a good thing.

* Uma Thurman - Wonderful. She's not really well known for comedy, but she does the screwball sex goddess role remarkably well.

* Jon Lovitz - Let me preface this by saying that I normally *hate* this guy. But he was gold in this movie. Only in a couple of scenes, but he steals the spotlight in both. And he delivers possibly the funniest line in the film ("I can smell the stench of self-esteem.")

* "I Wanna Be a Producer", "Along Came Bialy", "When You Got It, Flaunt It", "That Face", and "Keep It Gay" - great, great musical numbers.

* The entire Springtime For Hitler sequence - very well done and hysterically funny. "Heil Myself" ... *dies*

* I sort of enjoyed how the movie played like an old-school movie musical. They don't all have to have a clever cinematic hook like Chicago. Hitchcock once said (in answer to a question about Dial M For Murder) that when you're doing a film of a hit play, you shouldn't try to open it up and make it too cinematic, because all you're really adding to it is cars arriving at places, people getting out, and other similar trivialities. I think the same philosophy applies to this movie.

The Bad

* Opening number - Painfully bad, cardboard stiff, and it set the tone for the movie being little more than a filmed stage play. There's nothing really wrong with simply filming a stage play, but you should give the sets and numbers a little more depth. The opening number literally looks like all of the actors are merely on a stage, in front of a painted backdrop, singing the song. Awful.

* "Betrayed" - Gah. Also painfully bad. It's supposed to be a clever little recap of the movie up to that point, but it doesn't really work. Would probably have been better if Lane were actually directing this to another character instead of playing to the camera.

The Meh

* The movie is very funny, but I can't help wondering if the idea is a little dated. I suspect that the original film with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder was much more daring when it premiered in 1968. And making light of a sensitive subject (especially the Nazis) is not that original anymore. Since the original film came out, the world has seen "Hogan's Heroes", the Soup Nazi, and Eric Cartman dressed as Hitler for Halloween. The original gag has lost some of its punch.

* I said above that there's nothing really wrong with filming a stage play pretty much as-is. But if you do it, there should at least be a small attempt to camoflauge the fact that you're doing it. Susan Stroman, being a choreographer and having no directorial experience except for TV broadcasts of stage plays, doesn't seem to be able to do this. She is an amazing choreographer, to be sure, and I think she would have worked well as a co-director - in the way that Jerome Robbins was co-director of West Side Story. But there really needs to be someone in charge who knows how to make a movie look like a movie.

So, lots to like, and only a couple of truly weak spots. This one probably plays better on the big screen than it will on DVD, since it sort of gives you the experience of seeing the show on stage.