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The 1968 version of The Producers was initially released to a rough reception but, over the years, has garnered a reputation as a comedy classic. And, so it came to pass, that in 2001, the story was guided to the stage, albeit as a musical production. The show was directed by Susan Stroman and, quite aptly, produced by its original director Mel Brooks. The resulting Broadway show was a huge success, winning multiple Tony Awards and much critical acclaim.

In 2004 it was announced that the musical would be making a transition to movie-screens with the same director and much of the same cast. Audiences could be forgiven for being a little confused as this was, after all, a film based on a theatre production that was, in turn, based on a film...

Producers, The (2005)

Film


As a decidedly lack lustre theatre producer, Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) is forced to secure the funds for his latest productions from a small group of little old ladies. However, when his accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) discovers that you can enjoy more financial success with a flop than a success, the pair join forces to create the world's worst musical.

So far, so 1968. And that's the biggest problem with this remake; it's all far too reminiscent of the original movie. While there's the obvious difference that this is a musical, it's doubtful that any of the songs, with the exception of the returning 'Springtime for Hitler', will live long in the memory. Comedy songs are notoriously difficult to pull-off, but there are certainly more laughs to be found in the musical efforts of Parker and Stone in the recent Team America: World Police.

As for the cast; there's often an unnerving feeling that they are having a lot more fun than the audience and those who saw the Broadway production can judge whether Lane and Broderick, reprising their roles, are merely going through the motions. Every line is delivered with the gusto that comes from knowing that it's a favourite of a live audience, and their exaggerated performances seem far more old-fashioned than Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in the original feature. While Broderick and Lane enjoy nice chemistry (see The Lion King for a previous example), it's no substitute for some genuine laughs.

Producers, The (2005)
They're joined by Uma Thurman as the Swedish Bombshell Ulla and Will Ferrell as the distinctly mad Franz Liebkind. As a ditzy blonde, this is almost a non-role for Thurman after the rigours of two volumes of killing Bill, while Ferrell descends into his typical routine of zaniness, which is quickly becoming tiresome. More enjoyable are the less-trumpeted roles for Gary Beach and Roger Bart, although quite why Brooks went to the trouble of snagging Michael Mckean and Jon Lovitz, only to do precisely nothing with them, is anyone's guess.

A curiosity that deserves to be seen by anyone who enjoyed the original movie; The Producers benefits from a familiar, classic story. Nevertheless, as a musical, it's distinctly average and, as a comedy, it often suffers from an overwhelming sense of self-confidence; reflected in an overlong runtime. Some things, it seems, really are better left on stage.

Video


Although the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is generally faultless, it's worth noting that the lighter colours do look a little lifeless. This is most noticeable in those sequences shot on location or under harsh light. Skin tones, in particular, do not fare well under these conditions. More successful are the darker shades which are well contrasted and possess a nice amount of clarity.

Producers, The (2005)

Audio


One of the best aspects of this disc is the near-excellent audio quality; especially important considering that fact that this is a musical. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track certainly doesn't disappoint. While special effects are noticeable by their absence, dialogue is well-presented through the central speaker and nicely balanced when accompanied by the musical numbers.

Extras


An audio commentary is included on the disc, although long-term fans will be disappointed that Mel Brooks is not present. Director Susan Stroman is the sole occupier of the microphone and offers a, frankly bizarre, chat-track. Stroman frequently appears to be reading from her notes, creating a rather stilted experience.

One of the more outlandish scenes in the movie is Matthew Broderick's performance of the song 'I Wanna Be a Producer'. The analysis of this scene is reasonably thorough, stretching to fifteen minutes and incorporating interviews and backstage footage.

There are around ten deleted scenes, presumably cut for the sake of the runtime rather than problems with quality. Amongst the scenes, there's an additional song and dance routine for Nathan Lane, which would have greatly increased the length of the first scene, and expanded sequences for Will Ferrell.

There are a few laughs to be garnered from the fairly long blooper reel, showcasing the jovial atmosphere on set. Finally, we have some trailers for Rent, Fun with Dick and Jane and The Pink Panther.

Producers, The (2005)

Overall


A sadly average movie gets a distinctly average disc as one of the bigger disappointments of last year finally takes its curtain call. If there's a lesson here, it's that what worked in the theatre doesn't necessarily work in the cinema...or on DVD. Presentation is generally fine, but the extras are a surprisingly dull affair. There's a comedy classic out there called The Producers... but this isn't it.


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