The Producers

Dan Movie Reviews

The Producers is arguably one of the funniest films ever made. It was Mel Brooks’ debut as a director, and he even won an Oscar for the hysterical screenplay about a failed Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and his scheme along with accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) to create a sure-fire flop of a musical, and keep all the money from the backers. Their choice: Springtime for Hitler. Twenty years later, Brooks’s dream of having a show of his own on Broadway would turn the Great White Way upside down when his musical version of The Producers turned out to be anything but a flop: it won the most Tony Awards for a single show, ever. Following the trend of Broadway-turned-Hollywood films like Chicago and The Phantom of the Opera, it was inevitable that the musical version of Brooks’ classic story would make its way to the big screen.

Bringing us on this journey is the director of the musical, Susan Stroman. Along with her are the principles from the original Broadway production, including Nathan Lane as Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom. Replaced with "Hollywood talent" are the roles of Ulla (Uma Thurman) and Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell). The music and lyrics were all written by Mel Brooks himself, with the assistance of Glen Kelly (arranger/underscore) and Doug Besterman (orchestration). Two of the songs from the 1968 film – the classic "Springtime for Hitler" and "Prisoners of Love" make a return, as well as 15 new ones, and even a few bonus tracks.

Broderick as Bloom doesn’t quite live up to the hysteria-laden performance that Gene Wilder established, but you quickly forget it as he warms up within the first third of the film. Lane as Bialystock is perfect, doing justice to Zero Mostel, and singing his heart out. Thurman is not as weak as I had expected her to be, although she doesn’t belt it as well as Cady Huffman in the original Broadway show. What can one say about Will Ferrell? Probably not too much, except that we want more of him! He’s excellent as Franz Liebkind, the Hitler-loving scribe of Springtime for Hitler. The rest of the cast is great as well, including Broadway show originals Gary Beach and Roger Bart.

This was an awesome movie, and makes a nice companion to the 1968 original. The songs are great, and whereas the Broadway version was styled as an homage to the heyday of Broadway, the film is a big jazzy MGM musical style. Overall, it’s a film well worth seeing.