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With: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Roger Bart, Gary Beach, Andrea Martin, Debra Monk
Written by: Mel Brooks and Meehan, based on their 1968 screenplay and the 2001 musical
Directed by: Susan Stroman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual humor and references
Running Time: 134
Date: 12/16/2005

The Producers (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Foul Play

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Taking Mel Brooks' 1968 film and turning it into a huge Broadway success made perfect sense. After all, it was set in the world of Broadway, telling the crazy tale of two producers who raise a bundle of money for a sure-fire flop, hoping it will close in one night so that they can keep the extra cash. The idea of staging their would-be dud, "Springtime for Hitler," on the big Broadway stage must have seemed irresistible.

However, taking the play of the movie and turning it into another movie wasn't such a great idea. The new The Producers simply comes across as an inert musical and a pale copy of a comedy classic.

Most of the problem comes from first-time director Susan Stroman, who served as choreographer on the play. While she may have worked magic on the stage, her filmic sense is severely lacking. She simply films the bland musical numbers head-on, like a proud parent pointing an unflinching video camera at a child's Nativity play.

This stagy sense of continuity does not serve Stroman when it comes to the straight comedy. Certain scenes scream out for single, sustained takes, but she hacks away at them, delivering them in tiny chunks rather than fully-formed jokes.

Reprising their stage roles, Nathan Lane plays Max Bialystock, a veteran Broadway man with a string of flops under his cardboard belt, and Matthew Broderick plays Leo Bloom, a meek accountant who discovers the loophole that will allow them to collect big on their potential flop. Together they track down the worst play ever written, penned by neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind (a very funny Will Ferrell). Uma Thurman co-stars and has a ball as a busty Swede Ulla, who auditions for a part and doubles as the boys' secretary.

After countless nights of practice, Lane and Broderick have their routine down. Lane goes much further back than his 1968 counterpart Zero Mostel, and draws inspiration from Lou Costello, dapper and happy but capable of breaking down in an instant. Broderick has bigger shoes to fill � Gene Wilder received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the original � but he aptly employs his Ferris Bueller-type charms and a kind of appealing simplicity (he pronounces Broadway as two separate words).

However, the best laughs merely duplicate the favorite lines from the original. ("I'm wet! And I'm still hysterical!") And so, not unlike its fictional flop, The Producers the movie musical sends the top people laughing all the way to the bank, while the rest of us are stuck with a Christmas turkey.

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