Nathan Lane is a failed broadway producer who fools around with old ladies who he cons into giving him money for plays he never produces. When an abused tax accountant (Matthew Broderick) explains how he could make more money with a flop than with a hit, he persuades him to co-produce a flop. But the flop - Springtime for Hitler - is a surprise comedy hit. What a disaster!
Those who haven't seen the original 1968 classic The Producers, do yourself a favour and see it. The one good thing about revolting remakes is that the originals are more likely to find their way into your video shop in DVD format, or onto Turner Classic Movies as reruns - as this hilarious comedy did a few months ago.
The original opens with one of the most humorously cringe-inducing sex scenes ever filmed. In it, the failed producer pleases an old lady by playing role-play games with her, and in the course of it persuades her to give him a cheque. He does the same with the next old lady, and we learn he has a collection of their pictures in a cupboard.
Next thing we know, he's interrupted by a visit from a tax accountant, who thinks he's really into the old birds... it's pretty ham-fisted. But with its old fashioned sound, klanky dialogue, and completely unPC treatment of the old ladies, Mel Brooks' The Producers somehow pulls it off.
The remake relies on long song and dance sequences, cuts a whole lot of the old lady parts, and while sticking to the same old script, draws out all the lousy bits, and even adds bad ones, including a ridiculous scene in which lines of identical old ladies do impossibly athletic things with walking frames.
Uma Thurman plays Olga. In the original, Olga (the talentless but hot wannabee nymphomaniac actress the producers hire just to have her around) was a silly sideline character. In the new version, they try to update her as a superwoman, capable of doing her job and theirs, while still starring in the show. Mistake!
We are capable of seeing how stupid the men are. Do you have to tell us? Can't you show us instead? And just because it's Uma Thurman doesn't make it interesting. For this role, any actron would have done just as well.
The presence of big name actors in all the main roles doesn't help keep you focussed on the story, neither does the inclusion of countless extra musical song and dance routines that extend the movie to a jaw-droppingly boring 132 minutes. That's more than two hours of movie hell.
Nothing, fortunately, can stop the few minutes taken up by the actual broadway show from being utterly hilarious. Nothing can make the sight of scantily dressed Nazis goose stepping while singing a chorus of "Springtime for Hitler and Germany / Winter for Poland and France" not be laugh out loud funny. It always will be. That's what the one star this movie got is for.
Sadly, in the very next scene, the 2005 remake ruins the way the producers find out the bad news that they're a success. This tragic moment should be one of the comedic highpoints of the movie. Instead, it flops... so hard you'd almost think they were trying to make sure it would! Perhaps they were, when they changed the setting from the theatre bar to the producers' office, just so Uma and Matthew could bore us to tears with an oafish love scene.
Don't walk out of this one - don't walk in the in the first place. Get hold of the original instead. For all its faults (mainly sillyness-related), it won't let you down on the laughs.
- Jean Barker
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