The Producers Susan Strohman

The Producers Susan Strohman
How does a movie like The Producers squeak by? The book is full of old jokes and situations, the lyrics are randomly selected synonyms repeated ad nauseam, and the production is so overdone that it crushes any honest emotion that might attempt to escape. And yet, the enthusiasm of a very talented cast makes this movie worth watching, if for no better reason than to watch them pour their emotions on material that doesn't deserve their efforts.

Based on the Mel Brooks Broadway smash (itself based on Brooks's 1968 film debut), it of course details the progress of faded producer Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane) and Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) as they sell 1,000 percent interest in a show that's certain to flop. But though they find a Hitler-worshipping playwright (Will Ferrell), a flaming-queen director (Gary Beach) and the worst actors money can buy, the play is a surprise hit. No surprise that Brooks and his collaborators fall all over themselves on pretty obvious material, and that they somehow manage to gentrify the genuinely coarse original movie: this is Broadway, and even the king of Blazing Saddles has to show some class. But though even "Springtime for Hitler" lacks the offensive punch of the original, there's no denying the talent on board.

Though Broderick's a little flimsy and Ferrell indulges in mugging, everybody else — from headliner Lane Lane to Beach and his assistant Gary Bart, Swedish secretary Uma Thurman to the rest of the chorus and bits — sell their roles like it was Strindberg (but zany). You can sit back, watch the actors doodle in the movie's underwhelming margins and wonder what they'd do with a real script. (Universal)