I went to go see the latest Harry Potter film, thinking that it was the middle of the week and it had been out for over a month that I should have no problem getting in. To my surprise, the showing I was heading for was sold out. So I decided to see a film I had intended to see on the day of release, but failed to do so.
Now I try not to judge remakes against their predecessors, but I found it incredibly difficult not to in the case of Mel Brooks’ film version of the Broadway Musical version of his lat 60s cinematic masterpiece The Producers. You’ve got a good script, good actors, good music – where (to reverse a quote form the film) did they go wrong?
First off, they tried to look like the original film. The number one failure in a remake is to try to look or feel like the original. Not having seen the Broadway version, I can not compare it to that – but I would assume that it too tried to look like the original film.
Secondly, the elimination of LSD – not the drug, but Lorenzo St. DuBois – the trippy-flower-power-hippy that ends up playing Hitler in the internal musical “Springtime For Hitler.” He was the completely wrong person from the outset to play the lead. Franz Liebkind would have played an all too credible Hitler – had he actually gone on. If they were trying to make a total bomb, then LSD was your man.
Thirdly, and on a similar note to the first, Matthew Broderick was trying too hard to be Gene Wilder. He really needed to make Leo Bloom his own character. A lot of the mannerisms that Gene had in the original film are quite definitely Gene’s – and can be seen in other characters that he played. The traits of Leo Bloom could have been played in a different manner.
I did earlier commend the production on it’s casting. While Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were obvious choices stemming from their success on Broadway (and that they each have a good track record in the cinema as well) I would say that the supporting cast was very well cast as well. Will Ferrell was fantastic as Franz Liebkind, and Uma Thurman as Ulla was wonderful as well (even though she had more actual dialogue than the original Ulla…)
This version of the Producers is worth seeing once in the cinema, but make it a matinee or a second run theatre ticket. And make sure that you stay through to the end of the credits. This is one of those films that doesn’t end until the final reel has finished winding off.