I have to admit, the first time I saw any incarnation of The Producers
, it featured Larry David as Max Bialystock. In the fourth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm
, Mel Brooks (playing himself) casts Larry in the musical, attempting to kill off his franchise. But as is demonstrated in the plot of The Producers
, no matter how hard one strives for failure, unwanted success can always find them. There' no such danger of unwanted success here, as the main problem with the latest screen version of The Producers
is that it appears to be trying too hard.
As it did on Broadway, this manifestation features Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane playing Leopold Bloom and Max Bialystock, respectfully. Leopold, the quirky nervous accountant, discovers that Max could make more money by producing a musical that flops than one that' a smash hit. So the desperate veteran hatches his scheme and searches for the worst play he can find. With Leopold' help, Max comes across
Springtime For Hitler
, a ridiculous celebration of the wonderful world of Nazis. Will Ferrell plays the German who wrote the musical and is priceless with his Nazi messenger pigeons. Then Max and Leo recruit Roger DeBries (Gary Beach), the gayer-than-your-gay-cousin director to take the reins of their disaster. Beach' is possibly the strongest performance of the whole group-and he has the Tony to prove it. Enter Uma Thurman, who plays Ula, the Swedish secretary/actress with gibberish for a last name and enough T&A to make me forget her so-so singing.
With such a stellar cast (Jon Lovitz, too!) there really shouldn't be a problem. But as we have learned from
(Lovitz, again), that won't guarantee a solid film. The main snag is that this Producers
is a film, not a musical on a stage. Both call for a specific performance; any first-year acting student could bore you to death with further explanation. Everyone except for Thurman feels the need to project their character to the nosebleed seats even during shots so close up we could tell what the craft services table had out that day. Broderick' face is so overly animated in the film that it reminded me of some absurd Jim Carrey outtakes. Not only the faces, but also the flailing arms, Broadway blocking and prolonged tap dancing interludes do not translate well to the big screen.
As for the comedy"¦ sure, it' funny, but the campiness of the whole thing, though somewhat inherent to the story, muffled my laughter. Although Brooks is incredibly influential, a lot of the jokes seemed very tired. Mainly, the sincerely funny scenes are those in the musical inside the musical, Springtime For Hitler
. Singing and dancing Nazis that form a spinning swastika and the lispy Hitler would have made for one kick-ass USO show. And predictably, Farrell picks up a lot of slack, especially towards the end when he runs into a room with a WWII pistol ranting about how the musical tainted the good name of Adolf Hitler.