June 2, 2006

DVD Review: The Producers (2006)

You know, I've never seen the original film. As much as I enjoy the work of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, particularly Young Frankenstein, I never got around to seeing the original version of The Producers. Of course I was familiar with the plot, but never knew the details. On top of that, I never got to see the Broadway version of it either. Despite the great word surrounding it, and the duo of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, I did not make the relatively short trek to Broadway. So, when I learned of the effort to bring the stage musical to the big screen, I decided this would be my introduction the world of Bialystock and Bloom.

I did see it on the big screen, and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I felt it was a bit to the long side. There were some wonderful songs, great dancing, spectacular set pieces, and some fun, if over the top performances.

For those of you who are even less familiar with the film/play than I am, let give you a brief look at the plot. Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) is a Broadway producer who has fallen on bad times, his plays are bombs, and he romances little old ladies out of their pensions to finance them. Along comes Leopold Bloom (Matthew Broderick), a mousy little accountant who surmises that it is theoretically possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit (put into real world practice by German director Uwe Boll). The idea intrigues Bialystock who convinces Bloom to join him in the scheme. They seek out a surefire bomb, discovering Springtime for Hitler, then a crack director and production team, and finally the money. They have all their ingredients for a money making disaster, all they need to do is put on the worst show in the world. That gives you a brief idea of what its about, it's fairly straightforward, the fun comes from performances.

Something that I liked was that director Susan Stroman, who also directed the Broadway show, did not really attemot to turn this Broadway musical into a film, rather it was more like bringing the play to the screen. Rather, it is like filming the play with bigger sets. This is different than what was done with, say The Phantom of the Opera, which seemed more like a movie musical than this, which feels like a filmed musical.

The performances were over the top, right in line with my thoughts of it as a filmed musical. All of the actors are playing to the back row. It may seem over the top and not believeable, but this is acting for the stage. Stage acting anf film acting are two completely different beasts, and it was fun watching Lane and Broderick who are adept at both. Those two really gave the film its heart. The supporting cast were very good as well. Uma Thurman is a lovely and funny presence as Ulla, the secretary/actress. Gary Beach is the inept, yet dedicated director Roger DeBris, is funny in a role that is very much like Ed Wood, in love with hisu chosen art. Always at the side of DeBris is the scene stealing Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia. He is just a seriously wacky character. Both Beach and Bart started their respective roles in the Broadway version. That brings me to Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind, author of the featured musical. He very nearly stole the show with the "Gutentag Hop Clop." And of course, there are a couple of Mel Brooks voice cameos throughout the movie, can you find them?

Overall, this was a very funny movie, but it was long! I thought that it could have been sped up in a few places, but it is still a lot of fun.

Video. The DVD presents the film in its original 2.40:1 widescreen, anamorphically enhanced of course. The movie looks good, I didn't notice any edge enhancement. The colors are vibrant, and this is one colorful film! Everything is bright, and clean. No complaints about the transfer.

Audio. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It sounds very good. This is a film where the music and voice are such an integral part, and if they don't sound good, it is affected more adversely than in non-musical. Fortunately, there is nothing to complain about here, it sounds very good.

Extras. There are a few extras here, and they are generally pretty good.
-Deleted Scenes. There is a nice selection of scenes that were cut, including a couple of musical numbers that had been cut, including "King of Broadway." While I think the movie was long, I would have liked to see the songs reintegrated into the film proper.
-Outtakes. There is an flub reel which is quite funny involving adlibs by the leads.
-Analysis of a Scene: "I Wanna be a Producer." This is an interesting look at the set design, choreography and performance of Leo's big number when decides to leave his accounting position.
-Commentary with Susan Stroman. I have to say, this was an annoying to listen to commentary. There are a lot of interesting notes and stories to be relayed, but Stroman sounds so scripted. It is like she is reading from a script, and it sounds rather awkward. I almost stopped it a few times, but I'm glad I didn't as some of the notes are worth hearing.

Bottomline. This is a nice DVD package. The extras are worthwhile, and the film is fun. I liked the staged nature of the feature. Memorable scenes include the introduction of Ulla, Max raising the mony for Hitler, and of course the introduction of Franz Liebkind. This is definitely worth seeing.

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