I have been on an ongoing Bette Davis marathon and enjoying it, but needed to take a little break, and thought I would finally get around to seeing The Producers.
I put off seeing this music remake for some time. I never saw the Broadway stage adaptation of the film, but I probably would have if I had been in New York during its record-breaking run of 2,502 performances. It certainly looked like fun. However, when I heard that the musical was being made into a movie, making it a movie based on a play about a play, and based on an early movie about a play, well, I quickly lost interest. I had just seen the 1968 original around that time the remake was released, and I thought that the totally unique styles of Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel brought their own idiosyncratic performances to the roles of Bialystok and Bloom and really made them their own. I also didn’t think Uma Thurman is voluptuousness enough to play the sexy Swedish secretary Ulla.
But I knew I had to get around to seeing this eventually, because even though he didn’t direct it, this is (more or less) a Mel Brooks movie, after all. After the requisite opening musical number, the first meeting between the failed Broadway producer and his meek accountant seemed to drag on forever. Is this the chemistry of two actors who have played this scene literally thousands of times before on the stage? It was quite a disappointment to see Nathan Lane going to great lengths to do a Zero Mostel impression. Even though he shaved the top of his head to give himself an authentic comb-over, there was, and forever will only be, only one Zero Mostel. At least Matthew Broderick wisely avoids the stammering and long, contemplative pauses before apoplectic eruptions that were Gene Wilder’s trademark. Even Will Ferrell showing up as the oddball Nazi playwright does little to pick up the lagging pace. The fact that the character traits and much of the dialogue are taken directly from the original film seem to challenge the viewer, or me at least, to compare the two, and this one is seems destined to come up lacking.
But then Uma Thurman walks through the door to sing “If You Got It, Flaunt It,” and, as Max Bialystok would say, “bowowoowowoaw!” Thurman’s Ulla and Roger Bart’s Carmen Ghia (the assistant to the worst director on Broadway) are the two bright spots in the film, even though they are relatively minor characters. Broderick does an admirable job with all of the singing and dancing he is asked to do, and it is hard to believe this is the same person who played the puny computer geek in War Games.
After a while, I decided to give up trying to compare this to the Wilder/Mostel film and just enjoy it for what it is, but by that time it was almost over.