Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Producers


Having grown weary over the past 2 days from reviewing a duo of truly reprehensible films I decided today would be a treat for me in reviewing a favourite of mine, this came in the form of the 2004 musical comedy 'The Producers' written and produced by Mel Brooks, creator of some of the greatest comedies to be immortalised in celluloid in the past 40 years.

This film continues to show his quick wit and love of farce and double entente. To set the scene, the film takes place in 1950s Manhattan where struggling theatrical producer Max Bialystock, played perfectly by Nathan Lane, attempts to regain the popularity of his plays had at the height of his career. His latest play 'Funny Boy' (A musical adaptation of Hamlet) closes after one night. A member of the chorus announces “we've seen shit, but never like this” and “what he did to Shakespeare, Boothe did to Lincoln”.
Bialystock receives a visit from an accountant, Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) the day after 'Funny Boy' closes, who goes over his books. He finds that Bialystock raised more money than was needed, and so had kept $1000 dollars for himself. While considering this, Bloom realises that technically, a producer could make more money with a unsuccessful play, than one could with a hit, simply by raising more money than is needed, and putting on a cheap flop which is then closed.
They find a script, 'Springtime For Hitler', but it becomes a surprise smash when the actor who plays Hitler is so hilariously awful and camp, people find it a work of satirical genius.
They find themselves in a situation where they have sold a few thousand percent of the shares to raise the funds, all over the shareholders expecting to be paid back.

The thing is the story isn't the crucial element behind this film's brilliance. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice, quirky, clever little story but what really makes the film shine are the actors and more importantly the chemistry between them all. Broderick and Lane clearly get on well, allowing for a more relaxed, natural performance from both giving the viewer a real sense of the fun they had whilst filming.

Another major aspect of the film's greatness is the music. The themes in the music such as the 'big band' orchestration makes the viewer feel as if they are being transported back into the era in which the film is set. The music is catchy, upbeat and the lyrics are hilarious. I think it really helped that most of the main cast performed in the stage production. Usually in film musicals, the performances are toned down because the cameras and sound equipment show the performance more intimately, but in 'The Producers', it has been kept with the feel of a stage musical, which is very refreshing to see.

Most of all, this film contains the Mel Brooks wit. Little jokes weave into bigger ones, visual comedy one would easily miss, like a joke on a poster in the background, and many contemporary references in a film set around 50 years in the past. Every joke in it is perfect. It is obvious that each line has been rewritten again and again, filmed over and over until they all fit together perfectly.

The film is fresh, funny, clever, and contains brilliant musical numbers, bringing fond nostalgia of the old classic big band numbers from the 50s.


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