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"The Producers"

Directed by Susan Stroman.
Written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan.  Based on the 1968 film of the same name.
Starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  12/21/05


Even if you haven't seen the 1968 original or the long-running stage production of the Mel Brooks production "The Producers", you certainly have at least some idea coming in what this one's about:  a long-time Broadway show producer, Max Bialystock (in this version, Nathan Lane) and an accountant that has longed to work in production, Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick), run the numbers of Max's latest show and realize a startling fact:  it actually might be more profitable to raise a lot of capital for a show and then have that show flop than to have the show actually do well with the public.  So, they come up with a plan--develop a play so repulsive and so God-awful that the opening night show will bomb, bad reviews will pour in and the producers can take the majority of the raised funds to make a killing with a big bump in the bank account.

The show that the producers put on, "Springtime for Hitler", has to be awful, so to cement the deal Max pulls out all the stops:  he hires a crazy neo-Nazi follower (Will Ferrell) to write the lines for the play; he hires the world's worst production designer and choreographer, Roger de Bris (Gary Beach), and then he holds auditions for actors that have no prior acting experience ONLY.  In addition, Max and Leo decide to cast a walk-in named Ulla (Uma Thurman), a hot, poor-English-speaking woman as one of their leading ladies.  Oh, and did I mentioned that the show is a celebration of Hitler??

I hadn't seen either of the previous versions of this screenplay, so this was all fresh material to me...and, as such, I thought that after an initially-slow 20-minute beginning "The Producers" picks up steam and finishes strong thanks to the hilarious script by Brooks and the sheer energy of Lane & Broderick in the lead roles.  The two leads are perfect; Lane is a natural at this but I gain a bit more respect for Broderick with each successive role, and when you realize that he has somehow stayed relevant for so long without ever having been a true breakout star (his biggest role is still "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", and that was 20 years ago), my respect for him grows flick by flick.  Still not looking a day over 30 (he'll be 44 next March), Broderick could do this for 10 more years without batting an eye, but not only due to his looks but also due to his talent for slaying these nerdy weird guy parts with aplomb.

The supporting cast is also strong, none more so than Beach, who as the amazingly flaming-hot de Bris has maybe the second-best part in the production, behind the Max character.  I don't know anything about Beach's previous work (besides knowing that he was in the stage run of "The Producers") but it is strong enough here to warrant a second viewing.  Ferrell is back on track here following a rough year of so-so to bad parts in "Wedding Crashers", "Bewitched" and that Woody Allen flick from earlier in the year; Thurman doesn't detract from the other performers with her one-note part by just looking real good in each scene.  Cameos from the likes of Jon Lovitz and Michael McKean also work in the audience's favor.

Really nothing bad to say about this; once it got rolling, the songs and the laughs and the in-movie play are all solid and I found myself wishing that I had seen the stage production before seeing the film.  Good stuff, if you like to watch men sing and dance in your movies.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09