First off, we all know that a Mel Brooks comedy is an acquired taste. You either like it or hate it. It’s bawdy. It’s chocked full of puns. It’s silly. It’s way overacted. It’s done with a wink towards the audience (except perhaps for “To Be or Not To Be”). It’s often an homage.
So if you watch this movie thinking it will be a smart comedy with clever plot twists and interesting messages, you’re in for a big letdown. It’s a one-joke musical based on Brooks’ original (and better) movie from 1968 “The Producers” starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.
Admittedly this musical version suffers from the smartness and tighter pacing of the original movie, and the fact over the years since the original movie, that the plot has become part of pop culture.
All that being said, if you’re in the mood for some pretty amusing songs, Matthrew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman, Jon Lovitz, Michael McKean, Gary Breach, Roger Bart and Will Ferrell truly hamming it up then this is your movie.
The plot, for the three people in the world who never have heard of the movie or the musical, revolves around a stage producer (Lane, as Max Bialystock) who has a string of failed shows. He is just about to give up when his last play is audited by Broderick’s character (Leo Bloom). Leo hits on the idea that making a musical that loses money could be far more financially fruitful than making one that breaks even or is a mild success. They search for a play that would be the most terrible, and stumble upon one called Springtime For Hitler (and Germany) written by a third-reich holdout named Franz Liebkind (Ferrell). The first two-thirds of the movie is spent finding backers, finding a producer for the show and auditioning for the part of Hitler. The final part of the movie is the actual play, the results and repercussions, which I will not spoil – but that does seem to slow down the picture.
Prepare yourself for songs about making sure musicals “Keep(ing) it Gay”,
Uma Thurman singing about “When You Got It, Flaunt It”, a pretty song called “That Face” by Broderick and the classic “Springtime for Hitler and Germany”. About half of the songs are forgettable and fall flat, despite the remarkable vocal abilities of the cast. Given both Lane and Broderick were leads in Lion King, I often was reminded of Timon and Simba’s interplay.
It is interesting that the premise for the awkward play within the movie is not as shocking as perhaps it was in 1968.
But here we have the classic Brooks’ humorous indecency, funny word play and mostly clever songs.
Gary Breach does a remarkably funny job playing both the gay producer hired for the play and and then starring as a singing, dancing Hitler with lines like “I was just a paper hanger, no one more obscurer. Got a call from the Reichstag, telling me I was Fuhror”.
Broderick and Lane are a great comedy team, especially Lane who knows how to layer the overacting with mugging, crying and physical humor.
The movie/musical gives you a great taste of what classic Broadway musicals were like, and you get the see a beautiful Uma Thurman before her latest plastic surgery debacle.
Overall it was well done. There were a few times I laughed out loud, but mostly I found it just amusing. But certainly worth watching. Watch the credits as they are well done, and then watch for the Mel Brooks cameo after the credits
One a scale of one annexed Poland to five Western Fronts, the Monkey gives it a solid 3.5 Heil Hitlers – above average. Check it out, but only if you like Mel Brooks comedies – which The Monkey does! Eeep!