“The Producers” is the second musical to arrive in theaters this holiday season. Unlike the previous film “Rent,” which I had no idea what to expect from prior to seeing, “The Producers” does have a sense of familiarity - with Tony award-winning credentials and a previous nonmusical movie, both created by the gifted comic writer Mel Brooks. While I am sure fans of the Broadway musical or Brooks will get a big kick out of his latest incarnation, I'll admit this version probably won't generate too many more fans.
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprise their Broadway roles as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom. Bialystock is a down-on-his-luck producer who hatches an idea of producing a major flop after Bloom, an accountant who secretly desires to be a producer, suggests Bialystock can make more money with a flop than he can with a hit.
The duo find what they believe is the perfect script, a musical called “Springtime for Hitler,” and proceed to hire the worst cast and crew imaginable in hopes of obtaining a flop of monstrous proportions.
It's hard to fault Lane and Broderick's performances since they spent over a year playing the same roles on stage, but Lane fares much better than Broderick. Both actors are still performing as if they are on stage, leading to some wildly outrageous gesturing and facial expressions (especially by Broderick) that prompted my wife to ask me if something was wrong with the actor.
Will Ferrell as the Nazi-loving writer of “Springtime for Hitler” and Gary Beach as the flamboyantly homosexual director Roger De Bris both have nice supporting roles, while Uma Thurman just doesn't click as the Swedish bombshell, Ulla.
Director Susan Stroman tries to open “The Producers” to broader locations, but the film still feels like a filmed version of a play.
Fortunately, “The Producers” has some great comic writing by Brooks to help offset the movie's many problems. Sure, it is easy to nit-pick the final product, but only Brooks could make jokes about Nazis and gays work to such gleeful perfection. In a time of politically correct humor, Brooks is a welcome throwback to the good ole days when the more people you offended, the better.
It's been a while since Brooks has been able to showcase his talent on screen. This clearly isn't up there with “Blazing Saddles,” “History of the World Part 1” or the original “The Producers,” but it is still a chance to see why Brooks is so darn funny. I must say that I enjoyed the trip down memory lane.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's DVD dandy is “Grizzly Man” (A-), a stirring documentary that adds to an already growing list of fascinating films from the genre this year.
In “Grizzly Man,” director Werner Herzog examines the tragic life of Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell spent 13 summers in an Alaskan wildlife preserve living with the area's grizzly bears and developing an unhealthy obsession with the animals that ultimately led to the death of him and his girlfriend.
Herzog's storytelling is adequate and does provide insight into Treadwell, but the most telling - and fascinating - footage was provided from over a 100 hours Treadwell shot while on these expeditions. This footage effectively captures the soul of the film, which is the study of one man's tragic descent into madness. “Grizzly Man” doesn't paint Treadwell as a hero, but as a sad and disturbed person who paid the largest price possible for his obsessions.
“Grizzly Man” is rated R for language and is available now on DVD.
Starring: Nathan Lane, Matthew
Directed by: Susan Stroman
Rating: PG-13 for sexual humor and references
Playing at: Great Escape 12
- Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton now has movie reviews available online. Just go to http://www.bgdailynews.com/movie_reviews/ or click on the Compton's Critiques link on our front page for a quick hit of movies playing in the area. He can also be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.