The Producers (2005)

Starring: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Gary Beach, Will Ferrell, Roger Bart

Directed by: Susan Stroman

Rating: 1

Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind and Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock in The Producers

It's exceedingly rare that I consider walking out of the cinema. Hell, I made it all the way through Van Helsing and National Treasure without escaping, didn't I? But ten minutes into the remake of Mel Brooks musical comedy The Producers and I am seriously thinking about leaving. Hmm, if I run, I might catch Ken Stott as Inspector Rebus on ITV, which must surely be better than wasting two hours of my life on this crap. Overblown, overacted and waaaay too overlong, The Producers, ironically enough, is the first great turkey of 2006.

Nathan Lane plays Max Bialystock, a dodgy Broadway producer who finances crap musicals by romancing little old ladies with dicky tickers but healthy bank balances. When neurotic accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) suggests that he could actually make more money putting on a flop than a success, the scene is set for the opening night of the worst musical ever, Springtime for Hitler, written by lederhosen sporting, pigeon fancying, neo Nazi Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell), directed by flamboyant über-queen Roger De Bris (Gary Beach) and starring Swedish sex kitten Ulla (Uma Thurman). So, great concept, great cast and a script by Mel Brooks - what's not to like?

Matthew Broderick.

Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom in The Producers

Matthew Broderick is absolutely dreadful. In a film bursting at its sequined seams with acting so hammy it should be served with mustard and a health warning, Leo Bloom should surely be the straight man - and I'm not just talking sexuality here. Every OTT, excess all areas film needs a certain degree of sanity to put the crazy characters in context. Where would The Rocky Horror Show be without Brad and Janet? Or Cabaret without Michael York's Brian? Even Robin Williams has the sense to take a backseat to the histrionic Albert in The Birdcage. Yet taking a backseat is something Matthew Broderick resolutely refuses to do. Instead, he tries to beat comic cheesemongers Lane, Beach and Ferrell at their own game and be funny - with toe-curling consequences. Walking on your tiptoes and bugging out your eyes is not comedy acting. Nor is flapping your arms about and, if all else fails, falling flat on the floor. Oh, and he can't sing either.

And it's almost as if Broderick's awfulness infects the other actors too. As The Birdcage's aforementioned Albert, not to mention the voices of Snowbell in Stuart Little and Timon in The Lion King, Nathan Lane is not exactly an actor renowned for allergies to chewed scenery, yet when taking solo time in the spotlight, he shines like the star he undoubtedly is. Paired with Broderick, however, he becomes almost frighteningly manic, frantically trying to out-ham his co-star with gurning facial expressions and hysterical physical gestures. In fact, so claustrophobically awful are the pair's opening scenes that you almost need to breathe into a paper bag to keep watching. As for poor Gary Beach, his fantastically outré performance as Roger De Bris should steal the show, had it not already been hijacked and shot at dawn by Broderick.

Gary Beach as Roger De Bris in The Producers

Okay, it's not all bad - some of the bits without Bloom in it are actually really quite good. The sets and costumes are great, and the staging of the musical numbers is suitably inventive and entertaining to keep you in the cinema, although where parody stops and, um, copying starts is a matter for debate. Roger De Bris's big number 'Keep It Gay' is outdated sexual stereotyping at its most crass, but at least it made me laugh, and the all-stops-out performance of 'Springtime for Hitler' is a superb showstopper that almost caused an outburst of spontaneous applause in the cinema. Almost.

But Broderick aside, The Producers still doesn't really work. Is it because, like Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, absolutely no allowances are made in the differences between stage and screen as media? Or is it because the script just isn't that funny, relying on badly done slapstick and old fashioned gay jokes in the place of wit and humour? Or (sigh) is this me experiencing another sense of humour breakdown? Admittedly, I'm not the best person to judge this film - I've never been a big Mel Brooks fan and I always thought Ferris Bueller's Day Off was over-rated. But I'm entitled to my opinion, and my opinion of this film is low. If Bialystock and Bloom really want to put on a flop, they should look no further than The Producers.

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