Mel Brooks has a lot to answer for. One can argue that for every movie that could be called a classic, such as Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles, he has also made some absolute clunkers such as Spaceballs, Dracula: Dead and Loving It or even Robin Hood: Men In Tights. However, The Producers is considered one of, if not his all time best, released back in 1968 and starring Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as Leo Bloom. Of course, recently it was then remade as a Broadway show and is currently enjoying a run in London's West End, so with the trend of releasing musicals as movies, most likely due to Chicago's success in this regard and more recently Rent, we now have the movie of the musical.
The story is a simple one, where Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) has yet another failed musical on his hands in the shape of “Funny Guy!”. His accountant, Leo Bloom (Mathew Broderick) actually shows Max that if you raised more investment for a guaranteed flop, you'd actually be financially richer than if you had a success. Inspired by this creativity, the duo set about looking for the worst script they can find (Springtime for Hitler), the worst director and actors and then sit back and watch it spectacularly fail so they can have $1 million each from the investors. It can't possibly fail, can it?
If I've said it once, I've said it at least five times, comedy is a very personal thing and what may be funny to once person, may not be to another. Case in point, look at the “popular” comedians and shows of today. Some people think Little Britain is funny, some think Jim Davidson or Reeves and Mortimer are funny as well - well, they're not, at least not to me. Give me a Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard or Bill Hicks any day (and Bill Hicks has been dead for over 10 years!) and I'll laugh, but the aforementioned? I'd rather have root canal work without anaesthesia. So, why do I mention this? Well, because I didn't find this funny. I can't tell you exactly why either. It could be that the movie is mostly slapstick in its variety of humour, it could be that while the songs are cleverly written, they didn't make me laugh either or it could just be I don't appreciate the humour here. What I can say is it is slickly made, with good chemistry between the leads - Lane and Broderick starred in the Broadway version, so they obviously gel well together. Thurman, who replaced Nicole Kidman, is fun here as well as Ulla (a shortened version of the characters name, as those who know the show/movie will no doubt know already) and displays good comedic timing, a reasonable dancer and a great set of pins as well. Will Ferrell, whom I positively loathe, is actually palatable here as Franz Liebkind, the author of “Springtime For Hitler”. Here he's not quite as over the top or as awful as he usually is, but that may be due to the fact he didn't write the material either (Anchorman anyone?). Oh and while I'm at it, look for Captain Jack from the new series of Doctor Who, as the lead tenor in the musical number “Showtime for Hitler”.
I didn't mind the musical numbers, which some people don't like apparently, they are clever, well done but again, not really amusing and it could be, dare I say it, that Mel Brooks has lost his touch - or, did he really have it anyway? Well he still wrote the screenplay for this and at the end of the day, it could either be that the times have moved on and the material looks a little weaker, or more likely, it's just my sense of humour and this movie are incompatible. That's not to say that others won't like it, although when the box has a quote from Johnny Vaughn writing for “The Sun”, automatically I felt like this wasn't going to be great and for me, I was right in that regard. But and it is a huge but, if you liked the stage show, the original movie, slapstick comedy or just Mel Brooks in general (although, I can't knock the man, for he was instrumental in getting Cronenberg hired for “The Fly”) you'll enjoy this. Me? I'll sit down with Mrs. Badcrumble and the “Definite Article”.
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