Friday, January 13, 2006

Movie Review: The Producers

What is wrong with people?

I've just been reading online that, supposedly, loads of people have been walking out of this movie. The critics have panned it and the word on the street is that it's awful.

To be honest, I did get the impression while I was watching it that while half of the audience were pissing themselves with laughter the other half were thinking "What the hell is this?!"

To be honest, I've never understood the whole walking out of a movie thing. It's the cause of a fair bit of friction between my wife and me. She says that part of the reason we got Unlimited cinema passes was so that we could walk out on bad movies without feeling that we've wasted any money...but I still won't walk out. Even if she's sitting there complaining that she's bored and huffing every five seconds. The problem is that no matter how bad a movie is, once I've got more than about twenty minutes in I want to know how it ends. Mary Kate & Ashley's "New York Minute" was on TV the other night and we put it on while we ate because we wanted to watch something we wouldn't mind missing the end of because we both had work to do later that evening. And I was STILL reluctant to stop watching it.

Anyway, that's all a moot point with The Producers because we both loved it. We've both grown up with Mel Brooks films. I have clear memories of being sat in front of Blazing Saddles at a very early age so that I could enjoy the campfire scene (parp!) and, of course, being a family of Star Wars fans, we all went to see Spaceballs at the cinema. But be it Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety or Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Mel Brooks films were a staple part of both of our childhood movie diets.

Which makes it all the more odd that I haven't actually seen Brooks' classic 1968 original movie The Producers, which almost makes me feel unqualified to write this reveiw of the new movie of the musical of that original classic. Of course, I was minus eight years old when it first hit cinemas, so I have a bit of an excuse...

This new version sees the hit broadway musical based on the 1968 film brought to the big screen with much of the cast from the stage version intact. Both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are outstanding in the two lead roles, but the real surprise is Uma Thurman...who knew she could sing and dance? Apparently not even her... Oh, and it's no surprise that Will Ferrell is totally off the wall insane as the neo-Nazi writer of "Springtime for Hitler." Apparently he begged them for the part.

Which brings me to one of the few sticking points in this movie. While Mel Brooks remains one of the few people in the world who can get away with lampooning Nazi Germany in this style, there are still times when it leaves you feeling a little uncomfortable. You know...when you catch yourself doubled over with

Gary Beach is also outrageous as the supremely over-the-top-camp director of "Springtime" who ends up playing Hitler after Will Ferrel's character breaks his leg. Some might argue that Brooks can get away with the Nazi jokes because he's a Jew, but maybe he can't get away with the gay jokes because he's straight (unless there's something I don't know...). But, really, the scene where we meet the director and his partner provides some of the funniest moments in the movie, and, ultimately, it's setting up the joke of having a gay man play Hitler in the campest style you can imagine.

This film is brilliant. Very, very funny and entertaining throughout. Plus it has Uma Thurman acting sexy. Yum.

The generally accepted view is that Mel Brooks isn't funny anymore. This movie puts that lie to rest. Looking at his filmography, that opinion seems to be based on Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which is one movie that I did switch off before the end (actually, after only about five minutes...ugh...). It would be more accurate to say that Mel Brooks doesn't make movies anymore, hopefully this film marks the end of that trend.

Rating: 8/10

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