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PRODUCERS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
An out of luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) and his mousy accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) devise a perfect plan to embezzle a fortune from little old ladies romanced by Max: raise far more money than you need to produce a sure-fire Broadway flop and then (since no one will expect anything back), Max and Leo can pocket the difference. To do this, they need to find the worst play ever written, which they find in the musical, Springtime for Hitler, penned by Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell), the neo-Nazi playwright and pigeon lover. Their plan fails miserably when Springtime for Hitler is a huge success. To complicate things, Ulla (Uma Thurman), Max's Swedish secretary and a would-be showgirl, falls for Leo.

Review by Louise Keller:
Laugh til' you drop - the musical version of The Producers is finally here. When Mel Brooks conceived his comedy satire in 1968 starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, the subject matter of ridiculing Hitler was brave to say the least. And nearly 40 years later, it still leaves bite marks. Writing music and lyrics for a stage production was a further stroke of brilliance by Brooks and it was inevitable that he should also write the screenplay for the movie. You'll walk away humming all the tunes and feeling as though you are floating on a cloud. If you've seen the stage show (I've seen it twice and loved it), you will know what to expect - and of course, watching Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in their Award winning performances is truly a treat. There's no business like showbusiness, and The Producers is full of it, with plenty of show, ultra camp humour and theatrical to the extreme. But above all the glitz and glamour, the all-important themes of loyalty and friendship always shine through.

The Broadway show's director and choreographer Susan Stroman has transported much of the production to the screen, and it works pretty well. There's a trade off, of course. Effects that stun audiences on stage may not have the save effect on screen, but what the stage cannot give, is the close-up. And watching Lane and Broderick in intimate close up, with all the superb nuance of expression, is priceless. Lane sparkles as the sardonically shameless producer who goes to any means to make a buck: he lies, cheats and fornicates with potential granny-mould investors whose 'Kiss-Me Feel-Me' urges defy their walking frames. Why should we be surprised? After all, Lane's Bialystock is a producer. Broderick epitomises the essence of non-entity of an accountant, whose paranoia is channelled in the blue security blanket he tucks away in his pocket. Together, they're brilliant and the joyous scene when they sing as they splash exuberantly in the fountain could well be paying tribute to Singin' in the Rain.

The angels smiled when the film was cast: Uma Thurman is a dream as Ulla, the Swedish beauty who definitely has 'got it and flaunts it' as she 'tidies oooop' around the office, pocketing hearts at the same time. She sings sweetly, wearing sprayed on gowns as she twirls, does the splits and dances with the grace of a showgirl. Reprising their Broadway roles, Roger Bart will have you in stitches as the outrageously effeminate Carmen Ghia, common law assistant to Gary Beach's Roger De Bris, the director who swaps his sequined frock for a swastika and moustache. Will Ferrell is the film's biggest surprise as Fuhrer follower and nut-case scribe, Franz Liebkind. Delivering an insanely manic performance as he spits and shouts his allegiance, Ferrell is at the top of his form. And he can sing. Very well, in fact. Who would have thought??

It's extraordinary that Brooks has retained his passion and inspiration for the project for so long. Stick around for the end credits - not only will you hear Ferrell singing a hilarious ditty, but Brooks himself makes an unforgettable appearance.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I admire Mel Brooks for creating the funny and original 1968 film, and for having both the talent and chutzpah to drag the material out 35 or more years later and rebirth it as a Broadway musical, with songs and lyrics largely written by Brooks himself. The simple yet theatrical concept easily stands up to the treatment, especially on stage.

It's at this film version of the musical that my standing as a fan of the man and his work is insufficient to overlook the weakness of the transposition. I still enjoy the musical and chose to see it both in Melbourne and Sydney; Mel Brooks has talent to burn as a satirist; only Charlie Chaplin can match Brooks' bravura in circling the Nazis with ridicule in an entertainment. The very idea of a musical, Springtime for Hitler, is an ideal vehicle for a musical and we can only wonder why it took Brooks 35 years to get around to it.

The fact that the film is a record of the stage version is not a commendation. Not only is the staging stagey, as opposed to filmic, but the performances are straight off the boards, so large in fact that they fly over the top, reducing the impact and the comedy. Lovely Uma Thurman is gorgeous as Ulla, and she fits right in with Nathan Lane the old pro, and Matthew Broderick the fresh young thing, who bring their Broadway deliveries to the screen.

Choreographer Susan Stroman has done a great job - for the stage.

Still, many in the preview audience laughed and awed, but I suspect they were new to the material.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

PRODUCERS, THE (M)
(US, 2005)

CAST: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Will Ferrell, Uma Thurman, Roger Bart, Gary Beach,

PRODUCER: Mel Brooks, Jonathan Sanger

DIRECTOR: Susan Stroman

SCRIPT: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Bailey, Charles Minsky

EDITOR: Steven Weisberg

MUSIC: Mel Brooks

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Friedberg

RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 12, 2006







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