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The Producers: The Movie Musical

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A+/A+/B+

Directed by: Susan Stroman
Written by: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Based on the play by: Mel Brooks
Produced by: Mel Brooks and Jonathan Sanger
Starring: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Gary Beach, Roger Bart, Eileen Essell
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

The Producers: The Movie Musical stands as one of the most mistreated films of all-time. It was a box office flop, critics and audiences hated it and it failed to garner a single Academy Award nomination. At least the Golden Globes recognised it with four nominations including Best Picture. All this is very unfortunate, because this is one of the most entertaining and enjoyable films of the decade. I have read a lot of reviews of the film and I have many arguments stating that everything they say is false. Watching this film again on DVD, I still don't understand why people hated it so much. It is really hard to frown while watching Mel Brooks' latest masterpiece.

Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) was once the King of Broadway, but is now producing flop after flop and is only able to get money by seducing little old ladies. When his accountant, Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) encounters a error in Max's books, he realises that it's possible for a producer to make more money with a flop than he could with a hit. So, they create the ultimate scheme to find the worst play ever written, hire the worst director in town and get a hold of the worst actors. The script they pay the rights is none other than "Springtime for Hitler" written by Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell). They soon inlist the incredibly gay Roger De Bris (Gary Beach) to direct it and he even gets the lead role.

Susan Stroman has wonderfully re-created the fantastic Broadway show for the big screen preserving the brilliant songs for everyone to enjoy for hours on end without having to pay for all those expensive tickets. Stroman has sadly been getting a lot of negative reaction to her directing style. The reason being is that it's too stagy. Why is it stagy? It is because she is doing it in the style of the film musicals of the 1950's and 1960's like Singin' in the Rain and My Fair Lady. She does a terrific job of eluminating that time period when films didn't have to rely on flashy cuts to make song-and-dance sequences. The screenplay by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan brings back classic lines from the original 1968 film and the original Broadway production as well as adding some new touches. For those who have not seen the previous incarnations, you will be howling with laughter for the longest time, but so will the people very familiar with the material (like myself).

The Producers also gets great points in the acting department with Nathan Lane once again turning in the brilliant performance that earned him a Tony Award on stage. He really brings himself into the role, so much so that we completely forget about Zero Mostel's unforgettable work in the original film. Matthew Broderick is also great as Leo who transforms from a panic attack-striken loser to a producer with a large self-esteem. More returning stage actors come in the form of Gary Beach and Roger Bart playing Roger and his common-law assistant. They turn these gay stereotypes into fully realised characters. I can't imagine anyone else playing these parts. To give the film more star power, Universal hired Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell, who both turn in terrific work. Uma Thurman is one of my favourite actresses and turns in one of her funniest performances as Max and Leo's Swedish secretary. Will Ferrell also gives his first award-worthy performance as Franz and really taking the part in the extreme, even upstaging Kenneth Mars' potrayal of the part.

Moving on to the technical aspects of the disc, the video and audio are absolutely perfect. I didn't spot any spots in the transfer and the music and sound effects really blast through the sound system. It actually feels like watching it on Broadway. Both of these areas get an "A+" grade. Since The Producers failed to attract an audience during its theatrical run (even Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Big Momma's House 2 did better, which shows how true the film's message is), Universal hasn't given this film the special edition DVD it deserves. However, we still get some marvelous extras. The best one is a series of deleted scenes which can be watched one by one or using the "play all" function. This is one of those rare occasions where I think every scene should have been added into the final cut. My favourite of them is the "King of Broadway" musical number which shows a wonderful combination of Stroman's directing skills and Mel Brooks' humour.

The outtakes are also wonderful and very funny and prove that Nathan Lane is one of today's finest comedic actors and incredible at improvising. The only documentary comes in the form of a fun featurette looking at how they made the "I Want to be a Producer" number. It's a great piece which shows how much time and effort it takes to make a movie musical. Finally comes a audio commentary by Susan Stroman. I think she is a great director, but that stood as one of the worst commentaries I have ever heard. It sounds like she is reading from notes and is completely robotic. I would have much preferred a commentary track with Brooks, Lane and Broderick or a one of those trivia subtitles options. The disc also begins with some previews which can be skipped using the "menu" button. Nonetheless, the other special features make up for it and thus they are awarded a "B+" grade.

Anyone who is a fan of Mel Brooks or musicals in general should pick this up right now. Go on, go pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

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