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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Susan Stroman
Cast:
Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Gary Beach, Roger Bart, Michael McKean, Eileen Essell
Writing Credits:
Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan

Synopsis:
The lights are on and the stage is set for The Producers: the most entertaining comedy hit of the year! Hilarious hijinx ensue when Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick return to their celebrated roles as a scheming theatrical producer and his mousy accountant, teaming up to produce a sure fire Broadway flop. Accompanying the duo on their comical road to failure is a tremendous supporting cast, including Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman. With more musical numbers, more wisecracks and more hilarious fun, The Producers is the perfect DVD for everyone to enjoy again and again!

Box Office:
Budget
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$154.590 thousand on 6 screens.
Domestic Gross
$19.377 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 5/16/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Susan Stroman
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• “Analysis of a Scene: ‘I Wanna Be a Producer’” Featurette
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Producers (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 18, 2006)

After the success of 2002’s Chicago, many thought movie musicals would finally make a comeback. However, those predictions proved premature, as all the big musicals after that fizzled at the box office. Phantom of the Opera snagged a passable but lackluster $51 million. Rent really tanked with its $29 million.

Add 2005’s The Producers to the list of high-profile flops. Even with the hit Broadway production’s lead actors in tow and real Hollywood stars such as Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman in supporting roles, the movie adaptation of a stage musical adaptation of a cult comedy flick didn’t find an audience. It waddled home with a crummy $19 million gross.

Perhaps this means that Chicago was the exception that proves the rule. Personally, I wasn’t surprised to see Phantom and Rent tank, but I expected Producers to be a hit – or at least not such a huge bomb. I don’t know if its failure acts as a true sign that movie musicals are dead or it just indicates public disinterest in this movie musical, but it sure doesn’t seem promising for those with an affection for the genre.

After watching it, I think that the film’s failure might be a reflection of its lackluster quality. Set in 1959, The Producers introduces us to has-been Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane). Once a huge success, he now must round up money for his productions by wooing old ladies. When an accountant named Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) checks out Max’s books, he discovers $2000 missing. When he notes that “the IRS isn’t interested in a show that flopped”, the meek number cruncher comes to a delicious realization: a flop production could earn more money than a hit.

This seduces Max, who then enlists Leo in a scheme. They’ll put on a sure-fire bomb, which will net them scads of money from investors. The pair seek the worst of all possible worlds. They locate a script called Springtime For Hitler by former Nazi Franz Liebkind (Ferrell), and they hire flamboyant and incompetent director Roger De Bris (Gary Beach).

With that, Max goes to work on the old ladies, to whom he eventually sells 2,000 percent of the profits. If the show does well, Max and Leo will go to jail for their fraud, but how in the world can a musical about Nazi Germany make any money?

When a movie remake emerges, it becomes next to impossible to avoid the temptation to compare the two projects. Indeed, this seems logical and probably sensible. After all, if a remake exists, then the filmmakers must think they can improve on the original, so comparisons let us know whether or not they succeeded.

In the case of The Producers, they didn’t. Since I never saw the live edition, I can’t say how many of the problems come from the original Broadway show and how many are unique to this screen version. I suppose that doesn’t matter in the end. Even if I took in the stage show, the film has to live or die as a cinematic offering, so it doesn’t matter from where the issues emanate.

Whatever the case may be, the best parts of Producers come straight from the original movie. The funniest bits – like Max’s cardboard belt – appeared there, and I can’t think of any new elements that move me. Whenever the film works, it usually does so because Mel Brooks created a fun concoction in the late Sixties.

That means that the majority of the musical’s problems remain unique to it. The songs are foremost among the deficits. Except perhaps for “Springtime for Hitler” – which appeared in the original movie – the tunes seem generic and forgettable. Clearly this music moved people during the production’s Broadway run, but I can’t figure out how. There’s not a single memorable melody on display here; the songs left my mind as soon as they ended.

I know that many enjoyed the chemistry between Lane and Broderick on the stage, but if that existed there, it fails to appear here. On one hand, Lane does pretty well as Max. Though he doesn’t live up to memories of Zero Mostel’s take on the part, Lane doesn’t disappoint. Slimy, slick and smarmy, he makes a fun and entertaining Max.

Unfortunately, Broderick comes across as a total dud. While Gene Wilder’s Leo was a true neurotic, Broderick always feels like a man play-acting his issues. He seems mannered and artificial throughout the movie. Rather than help, Broderick’s awkward performance actively harms the film.

Add to that the excessive length of The Producers and the movie’s debits outweigh its credits. While it creates a smattering of amusing scenes, virtually all of these are as good or better in the original flick. The musical Producers lacks magic and a real reason to exist.

Footnote: stick through the conclusion of the end credits for a surprise.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Producers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, Producers offered a terrific transfer.

Virtually no issues with sharpness emerged. Maybe a smidgen of softness interfered with a few wide shots, but that was the extent of it. The vast majority of the flick displayed a tight, accurate image. No issues, with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I also noticed no edge enhancement. Print flaws were absent throughout the movie.

Colors offered a real strength. The film went with a dynamic palette that always looked great. The hues seemed lively and vibrant at all times. Blacks appeared deep and firm, while shadows were clear and concise. This was an impressive transfer.

Although not quite so memorable, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Producers satisfied. As one might expect, the soundfield mainly bolstered the score and songs. The various production numbers pumped from all five channels, though the front speakers dominated with good stereo imaging. Effects stayed with general ambience most of the time. If any prominent use of the side or rear speakers occurred, I didn’t notice, as vague environmental material was the track’s emphasis.

Across the board, audio quality was solid. Speech sounded natural and concise, with no edginess or other issues. Effects seemed clear and accurate. Since nothing demanding occurred, they didn’t tax the speakers, but they remained more than acceptable. Music was bright and bold. Dynamic range appeared solid and showed good definition. This was a perfectly satisfactory soundtrack.

As we shift to the extras, we open with an audio commentary with director Susan Stroman. She presents a running, screen-specific discussion, albeit an oddly stilted one. I don’t know if Stroman speaks from text or she just talks in a deliberate manner, but the commentary presents a strangely pre-fab tone.

At least Stroman manages to offer some good information – for a while, that is. She talks about the project’s roots and adaptation concerns. She also discusses the cast and their performances, working with the actors and her collaboration with Mel Brooks, references and allusions to other efforts, the music and various technical concerns, sets, locations, cut scenes, and general production trivia.

When Stroman speaks, she provides pretty solid notes. However, more than a little dead air occurs, and that trend intensifies as the movie proceeds. Gaps become longer and longer, though they never quite dominate. Despite that issue, Stroman presents a reasonably nice examination of the film, and her chat proves sporadically illuminating.

Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of 19 minutes and 39 seconds. Most of these offer unused musical numbers or bits cut from existing songs: “King of Broadway” (5:25), “I Wanna Be a Producer” (0:51), “In Old Bavaria” (1:18), “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop (Reprise)” (0:38), “Along Came Bialy” (With Vignettes) (6:39), and “That Face (Reprise)” (2:04). Given the movie’s already excessive running time, it was probably a good idea to make cuts. However, the omission of “King” surprises me because it’s such a major sequence.

The other two elements offer more comedy. We get “Hide and Seek” (0:58) in which Max plays with “Hold Me, Touch Me”. “Astor Bar” (1:44) shows Max and Leo as they await the anticipated failure of their show. Both are inconsequential, though I believe “Bar” echoes a scene from the original movie.

15 minutes and 14 seconds of Outtakes appear. Inevitably we get some of the standard mess-ups and giggles. However, with hams like Nathan Lane and Will Ferrell on hand, we also find plenty of nutty fun from the set. Since we also find more of the delightful Andrea Martin – who barely cameos in the final film – these “Outtakes” are fun.

A featurette entitled Analysis of a Scene: “I Wanna Be A Producer” runs 16 minutes and six seconds. This look behind the scenes includes comments from Stroman, producer, co-screenwriter, composer and lyricist Mel Brooks, production designer Mark Friedberg, costume designer William Ivey Long, makeup designer Naomi Donne, theatrical lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, producer Jonathan Sanger, and actor Matthew Broderick.

As indicated by the title, “Producer” looks at the elements that comprised the movie’s big production number. We learn about “moving storyboards”, choreography, the sets, rehearsals, costumes and makeup, lighting and camerawork, and the filmmakers’ goals for the sequence. While Stroman covered a little of this information in her commentary, “Analysis” manages to nicely expand on her notes. The addition of the production footage makes things deeper and lets us see all the different aspects of the scene. This becomes a nice little program.

A few ads open the DVD. We get promos for Munich, Focus Films, various NBC TV shows, Over the Hedge, and the soundtrack of The Producers. No trailer for Producers pops up on this disc.

Whatever magic The Producers created on the Broadway stage fails to materialize in this forgettable screen version. It simply compares unfavorably with the superior 1968 film and never turns into anything particularly entertaining. The DVD presents very strong picture as well as good audio and a pretty decent set of extras. This adds up to a solid release for an unexceptional film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0909 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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