The Producers 

Directed by Susan Stroman

The great Mel Brooks comedy from 1968 was reinvented as a splashy musical in 2001; now it continues on the ever-accelerated circle of life with a 2005 film version of that musical. unlike some musicalized properties, the brilliantly screwball setup — Broadway producers conspire to solicit investors for a guaranteed flop, and pocket the surplus — is a natural fit.

For the movie of the play, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprise their roles as fasttalking Broadway huckster and neurotic accountant, respectively, and Susan Stroman reprises her role as a stage director, unfortunately. Yes, though The Producers has been shot on film, and even uses a few New york exteriors, for the most part it’s big-screen theater, like the musicals of yore.

This low-ambition approach about half-works; the comedy suffers more than the musical numbers. Lane and Broderick flutter around like they’re still on stage; the most egregious bits of slapstick spill out awkwardly, flopping all over the soundstages, gasping for laughs. The film does get plenty of chuckles and smiles, especially when Uma Thurman (as bombshell receptionist/actress Ulla) and Will Ferrell (as a Nazi playwright) display a more measured, film-friendly grasp of lunacy (this is not to say Ferrell is restrained, but Lane and Broderick sweat to make it seem so). But the movie doesn’t build. the escalating insanity of the original has been elongated by pacing too leisurely for farce. Stroman, also a choreographer, puts together some charming dance numbers, but doesn’t have the sense to eliminate a long, hammy bit where Lane sings through a recap of the first four-fifths of the movie, shamelessly reprising joke after joke. a comedy giant like Mel Brooks ought to know better: make ‘em laugh, and move it along.
Opens December 25


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