A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 180 – The Producers (2005)

The Producers (2005)

A few years back my mother called me up on a Friday night when Andy was working late. A friend of hers had gotten a couple of comp tickets for The Producers in Boston and given them to her and did I want to go? I said sure, because hey, a show that had gotten great reviews, based on a movie I loved, on stage for free? Why the hell not, right? So I changed out of my jeans and into something decent, met my mother and headed into Boston. It wasn’t the original cast, and we had these horrible seats up on like, the third balcony, and I spent most of the show sitting on my coat because the guy in front of me was about seven feet tall, but I also laughed my ass off. We all did. The entire theater. It made me wish I’d been able to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Broadway, but then they went and made a movie of it, so this combined with seeing a truly excellent stage production is the next best thing.

It’s an odd movie, to be honest. Funny as hell, but odd. It’s a movie based on a Broadway musical based on a movie about a Broadway musical. About Hitler. That’s a couple of levels of meta beyond the norm, plus, you know, Hitler. We don’t own the original movie (I know, I know, we’ll have to buy it tomorrow or something), but we’ve both seen it, and as I mentioned, I’ve seen it on stage. So I’m really looking at this as the offspring of the two. And as offspring of a stage show and a movie, it’s still odd. After all, the very nature of the original involves a stage show, so to put it on stage in the first place was going to be somewhat self referential. Like I said, levels of meta. And I do enjoy a stage show made into a movie. We’ve already done a couple, and I like looking at how things were changed between the two. But this isn’t a simple one way trip here. It’s a roundabout. The movie isn’t so much a movie based on the musical as the musical done on a movie budget and set. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to write a review about this other than to keep talking in circles. There’s a lot to mention, but every time I try it feels like I’m just making a list of things I like, and that doesn’t address the oddity of the movie’s feel. But I think I’ve worded that as well as I can manage and don’t want to just go on and on about it. Of course Nathan Lane is hilarious as Max Bialystock. I love Nathan Lane anyhow, and he plays his role, from songs to lines to movements to facial expressions, with a spot-on combination of ham, sleaze and charm. Of course Matthew Broderick is fantastic as Leo Bloom, though I will say that while he brings a lot of himself to the role, there were a few deliveries that were pure Gene Wilder (one shout in particular made me look up sharply because I could have sworn it was Wilder’s voice). This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something I noted as I watched. I enjoyed seeing Uma Thurman as Ulla, and while I’m not a big Will Farrell fan (I don’t dislike him, but he tends not to do the sorts of movies I enjoy) he did a bang up job as Franz. But I also liked seeing smaller roles like Michael McKean in the prison scene at the end, and John Barrowman on stage in Springtime for Hitler. And they all did good jobs. The entire cast did. They put on a wonderful stage show! On screen!

See, having seen the musical, I’ve got to say it feels somewhat oddly confined on the small screen. I think it would have felt oddly confined on the large screen too. Because it should be on a stage. This isn’t like Frost/Nixon, where the stage show is so drastically different from the movie, with the movie attempting to make the viewer feel like the sets aren’t sets where the play used the obvious and minimal sets to focus the action. And this isn’t like Jeffrey, where the more obvious stage show aspects of the script were mixed in with more film-friendly scenes. This is a stage show where the stage has been put in front of cameras. Sure, they don’t have to clear the stage and change the sets in moments between scenes. They had time to change costumes and makeup and you don’t get the same feel that live theater (even recorded and viewed on a screen) has. But it is theater. It’s not the musical numbers (which are great, and catchy, and my mother and I had to consciously not hum Springtime for Hitler on the train on the way home from the play), and it’s not the performances, and it’s not the sets. There’s nothing wrong with the movie. Nothing at all, in my opinion. It’s just not quite completely a movie.

I had a lot of fun watching this tonight, despite its odd nature. I laughed out loud, I enjoyed Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, I envisioned the stage performance, and I remembered the original movie. I like this movie. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, though there is that pesky thing about the plot and all. I mean, the original almost didn’t get released. It’s about two Broadway producers who, in trying to make a guaranteed flop, produce a lighthearted musical about Hitler winning World War II, complete with swastika dance formation. It balances right on a razor’s edge of taste and does some fake-out dips to the wrong side every so often. It’s certainly got that in common with the original movie. But what it’s also got in common with the original is that it manages to stay funny. And that the humor was kept through the transition from original to musical on stage to musical on screen is fantastic. And if you like that sort of thing, the movie does a great job. So since Lane and Broderick aren’t performing it on Broadway anymore, the movie really is an excellent stand-in.

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August 27, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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