The Producers review

"First it was a movie, then it was a Broadway musical. Now it's going to be a Broadway musical movie. I think the next thing will probably be claymation," says veteran funnyman Mel Brooks of his comedy creation being given a second cinematic outing. And there is something faintly gratuitous about this cult-hit revamp - with its inferior central performance, added dollops of glitz and distinctly stage-bound sensibility.

Helmer Stroman eschews Baz Luhrmann-style snazzy editing in favour of Gene Kelly-style long shots, continuous takes and a slow start - which takes some getting used to as characters sing directly to camera, using big gestures meant to project to the back row of the stalls. Broderick, in particular, seems unable to bring his acclaimed Broadway performance down to screen size - irritating rather than endearing with his waxy face, bulging eyes and mannered histrionics. The spectre of his predecessor in the role, Gene Wilder, hangs heavily over every moment.

Grandstanding Lane seems subtle by comparison and his assured, droll turn drives the film, ably deflecting Broderick's struggles and filling in the lulls between appearances by Will Ferrell - who was surely born to be in Mel Brooks films. As the avian-obsessed neo-Nazi author of atrocious show Springtime For Hitler, Ferrell is sublimely demented, skipping through musical numbers with an intensity bordering on mania and barking orders in a gratifyingly ridiculous 'Cherman' accent.

Broadway imports Gary Beach and Roger Bart are also hugely entertaining and Uma Thurman simpers agreeably, but the real star of this show is Brooks' script. Loaded with audacious and subversive poor-taste jokes, goosestepping Gestapo chorus lines, quotable exchanges and sheer chutzpah, The Producers is like Busby Berkeley crossed with South Park. And you don't get many of them to the pound.

Musical acolytes will thrill at this stagey interpretation, but those with an aversion to greasepaint might do well to check out the original.

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