Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Producers - Ulla dance now!

(posted by guest reviewer, Nik)

I was naturally skeptical. How could the modern version of The Producers simultaneously live up to the critical acclaim of 1968 Mel Brookes original as well as being faithfully in keeping with its subsequent Broadway adaptation? Moreover, could Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick match the exceptionally high standards of Mostel and Wilder as a pair of social inadequates and misfits - unwittingly and incompetently making the best bad play in history?

Happily, the answer is "yes" on all counts. Broderick and Lane develop a wonderful on screen chemistry from the very start - Broderick is totally convincing as the bumbling accountant looking naively to the lights of Broadway (and manages to be sufficiently distinctive from the Wilder depiction not to draw unwanted comparisons) - Lane eases in the part of the smoozy Max Bialystock, corrupting Bloom, lusting after Ulla, and boning various and sundry octogenarians. Moreover, the film is absolutely true to its roots, maintaining the overt homoerotic love story between the two male leads - as well as the total campness throughout.

The supporting cast is good too - Uma Thurman especially plays an excellent all singing, all dancing, all parts jiggling Ulla - Swedish and brazen in her "If you've got it, flaunt it" role. Gary Beach plays a convincingly gay Roger de Bris, and an excellent Hitler - and Will Ferrell acts within himself but perfectly adequately as flagrant homosexualist Nazi Franz Liebkind. Whereas the film cannot take credit for the score, which was developed for Broadway, it is all well performed and befits the adaptation.

Ironically though, the best and funniest scene and song of the film remains from the original -
Springtime for Hitler (and Germany). I remember watching the Brookes version for the first time at 15 years old and tears streaming down my face at dancing Swastikas and prancing SS-guards - it would have been a real let down if the modern version didn't do this scene justice. Fortunately, Stroman goes to town, unleashing a lavish, bright and wonderfully shot stage scene that is true to the original but nevertheless full of modern touches, and brought to life by the charms of Beach as Ze Fuhrer! It made me laugh, that's the main thing.

Finally, the interplay between Ulla and Bloom is interesting, especially given their discordant physical size, and adds to the sense that the real lovers in this play, the true couple, happily reunited at the end, are Bloom and Bialystock.

Don't get me wrong now, this film doesn't replace or supplant the original, nor indeed should it discourage us from visiting the Broadway show. Rather it compliments both, and brings the joy of the big stage to a worldwide audience. I even managed to enjoy it sitting next to a couple of loud, annoying American girls
who insisted, despite my protestations, on a running commentary.

Buy your chocolate raisins, stock up on your popcorn, visit the toilet beforehand, take front row seats, and enjoy!

THE PRODUCERS is on general release in the UK and US. It goes on release in Austria on the 24th February, in France on the 8th March and in Germany on the 16th March 2006

1 comment:

  1. I just want to point out that I "recused" myself from this review on the grounds that I think the original Producers movie is a work of comic genius and that Gene Wilder is the most talented on-screen comic of the last millenium bar Charlie Chaplin. I thought the musical version of The Producers was okay. The straight translations of the movie were superb, but the new songs were all weaker than Springtime for Hitler. As for the new movie, I think it is fairly WEAK cinematically. The director has no understanding of cinema as medium and has basically just filmed the live show. So while this version is fine, I still reckon you should JUST RENT THE ORIGINAL!