Monday, January 16, 2006

The Producers (2005)

A clumsy, klutzy dud. I've been told the play is hilarious, but you wouldn't know it from the flat-footed film we have here. Everybody onscreen is trying as hard as they can, and that's part of the problem -- apparently, nobody realized that you don't need to play to the cheap seats on film and if you do you'll just look stupid (unless you're Nathan Lane, who may be the only man alive who could come as close as he does to the genius of Zero Mostel). Matthew Broderick, in particular, gives a capital-A Awful performance -- his stiff and soulless turn here suggests the robotic moves of an actor who has done a show several times too many and is simply running through the part for the Saturday matinee crowd. I don't generally care for Broderick, but even I recognize that he's better than this and Susan Strohman should have bloody said something. There lies the film's other major fault, though: If there's too much energy being expended onscreen, there's not nearly enough used up behind the camera. Strohman is content to point the camera and shoot the big musical numbers more or less exactly as they would appear on stage, which saps them of any verve (they're mere recreations as opposed to living cinematic things). She does get a bit more inventive during the written-just-for-the-film number "I Wanna Be a Producer", but even that comes off like a third-class ripoff of Busby Berkeley. It's a sad thing to realize that the film's most energetic number is "Springtime for Hitler", and that's because it's directed so closely to the original number from Mel Brooks's 1967 film that Strohman might as well have cut in footage from the earlier film. The film's low point, then, is the tacky "Keep it Gay" number, which must have seemed stale even on the boards but in this context looks like the most garish and ugly thing you've ever seen. And if that's not enough, there's a boot in the butt on the way out the door in the form of an insulting happy ending that ignores/inverts the film's entire premise. Hollywood, listen: No more cinematic adaptations of stage musicals unless either Baz Luhrmann or Julie Taymor is directing, 'kay?

Grade: C


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