To Be or Not to Be - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

To Be or Not to Be Reviews

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December 7, 2015
A fun film. Like Casablanca only with Nazis.
August 9, 2015
Funny moments but not quite a hit
½ June 6, 2015
As comical as it is serious, it's not Brooks' most memorable, but quite enduring.
½ May 29, 2015
Was not expecting much from this one, but it was hilarious. Wasn't the over the top spoof I was expecting. Charles Durning and a Christopher Lloyd were so funny in this.
½ April 14, 2015
I've always thought this was an underrated Brooks' classic.
January 27, 2015
So far since I started working my way through The Mel Brooks Collection, there have been two surprises.

The first was how much better The 12 Chairs looked than I remembered (the difference between VHS & Blu-Ray).

The second was this movie.

It's easy to belittle as an unnecessary vanity project. The original is an acknowledged classic, and Brooks clearly made this film in part as an offering of love to his wife, the late Anne Bancroft. She's filmed as if through a stocking throughout, and Brooks has probably his most heartfelt moment onscreen ever when he tells her character's would-be lover: "I don't blame you for falling in love with her. It's easy."

Trouble is it's too GOOD to belittle thus. I know it's easy to do because in the past, I've done it, saying "It's as good as it could be, considering it didn't need to be made."

I was wrong. It's better.

Although "officially" not written or directed by Brooks, its inclusion in a collection of films he *did* write (usually with others) and direct speaks for itself.

So I will speak of it as his film, but I feel he'd want me to say it was directed by former choreographer Alan Johnson and written by Ronny Graham and Thomas Meehan, none of whom were likely to need him hovering over them the whole film. But a wink in a special Blu-Ray feature suggests he still had a hand in.

But chiefly, he's an actor here, and this is his best (one of his only) sustained performance.

Dr Thorndyke in High Anxiety was a believable Hitchcockian leading man, but only as much as needed for the spoof. He didn't have to, excuse the expression, engage the heartstrings.

Maybe Bronski in this movie didn't *have* to either, the point is that he does, and the movie is better for it.

As the other half of the theatrical lead couple in World War II, it's also a genuine privilege to watch Bancroft act. She knew how to think onscreen, and also how to raise her head with comedic timing.

From top to bottom, the movie is filled with great character actors; the script gives them, and the movie allows them, moments to show why.

Charles Durning was nominated for an Oscar but on this last viewing I thought the best among equals was James Haake as Bancroft's dresser.

His character is an effeminate homosexual. (One way the film differs from the original is that it *can* show it wasn't just Jews menaced by the Germans.) For most of it he's played for laughs, which is fine-there were and are such men, and this is a comedy.

But his moments come first when he explains to Bancroft about the pink triangle he must wear, and the film affords him his dignity to say "I hate it," before he returns to joking, as some do. And later when he attempts to hide from the Nazis by dressing in drag. He is not successful, and the scene trips neatly from the ludicrous to the emotional.

Which isn't a bad way of describing the whole film, come to think of it. 30 years later, this stands by leaps and bounds as Brooks' best film of the '80s.

PS: The songs ain't bad, either.
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2015
Pretty funny. Normally I'm not a big fan of movies with Mel Brooks in them, although I am a fan of his writing. I feel like his comedic acting is too obvious most of the time, like he doesn't think the audience understands subtlety. Here however, he does a surprisingly good job. As long as you can stand the really dark humor in this film, you'll find it's pretty funny. Story-wise, it's pretty good too.
December 26, 2014
The rare remake that actually improves on the original version. Brooks and Bancroft are delightful.
December 17, 2014
A more lunatic version of To Be or Not to Be, with the Brooks-Bancroft duo performing remarkably well, and Charles Durning, Christopher Lloyd and Jose Ferrer stealing the show. It's well-acted, well-scripted, and has to be seen to be believed, and hopefully taken seriously as well.
December 6, 2014
It was great seeing Mel Brooks starring together with Anne Bancroft in this remake. I haven't seen the original yet, but I loved it. Just the right mixture of drama and comedy. The supporting cast was excellent and Alan Johnson did fine in his directorial debut.
November 9, 2014
I gave the greatest performance of my life... and nobody saw it.
October 11, 2014
WOW.....WOW....WOW....FANTASTIC.....BRILLIANT....AMAZING.....I HAVE JUST SEEN THIS MOVIE 4 THE 1ST TIME N THINK THAT THIS IS SUCH A GREAT MOVIE 2 WATCH......its got a good cast of actors/actresses throughout this movie.....I think that mel brooks, anne Bancroft (.R.I.P.), tim Matheson, Charles durning (.R.I.P.), jose ferrer (.R.I.P.), play good roles/parts throughout this movie.....I think that the director of this comedy/drama movie had done a great job of directing this movie because you never know what 2 expect throughout this movie.....






This remake was faithful to the 1942 film on which it was based, and in many cases dialogue was taken verbatim from the earlier film. The characters of Bronski and Joseph Tura are combined into a single character, however (played by Brooks). The character of the treacherous Professor Siletsky (here spelled Siletski) was made into more of a comic figure, and even into somewhat of a buffoon, whereas in the original he was the one completely serious character in the film.






The film was favorably reviewed by Vincent Canby in the New York Times, who called it "smashingly funny."

Roger Ebert's film review stated that in the film, Mel Brooks "combines a backstage musical with a wartime romance and comes up with an eclectic comedy that races off into several directions, usually successfully."

It has a 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating "Fresh."

However, the film was not a great commercial success, grossing only $13,030,214





For his humorous performance as Colonel Erhardt, Charles Durning was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.




I think that this is such a really well written/acted/directed movie 2 watch, its got a great cast throughout this movie......I think that this is such a brilliant classics comedy movie 2 watch, it is such a really funny movie 2 watch, its got a great soundtrack throughout this movie.....I think that this is such a really fantastic comedy movie 2 watch, its got a great cast throughout this movie......man this is such an amazing movie 2 watch, with a great cast throughout this movie.....it is such a really funny movie 2 watch, it is such an enjoyable musical comedy movie 2 watch, with a great cast throughout this movie, it is so funny movie 2 watch, with a great cast throughout this movie.....
September 11, 2014
good remake but i prefer the original 1942 version
½ August 29, 2014
Fun with some good lines, but not one of Mel Brooks' best despite the comedy being similar to most of the other films associated with him.
½ August 8, 2014
Sold as a comedy (it has it's comedic moments). A little known Mel Brooks film. The serious undertone over shadows the comedic attempt. This film can be more suspense than comedy.
Super Reviewer
½ May 10, 2014
A farcical comedy, To Be or Not to Be is a fun and outlandish spoof of World War II. Set amidst the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of Poland, a small theater company attempts to stop the Nazi High Command from getting a list of the Polish underground. Starring Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, George Wyner, and Christopher Lloyd, the film has a hysterical cast that does well with this type of broad comedy. Brooks is especially good; stealing nearly every scene he's in. However, the storytelling's not that great and jumps around a little too much; not allowing enough time to establish the characters. So while To Be or Not to Be delivers a lot of laughs, it's a bit messy.
January 10, 2014
This movie is just as entertaining as the Ernst Lubitsch original, but with the Mel Brooks touch - slapstick, puns, a more overt humor. In the 1940's they were not ready for Mel Brooks. In this day and age, even Mel Brooks seems a bit dated. I got some smiles and some chuckles out of it, but not outright laughs. I think in 1983 however I would have been doubled-over.
January 5, 2014
A Mel Brooks production with that unmistakable Brooks style despite the fact that it wasn't actually directed by him, To Be or Not To Be is also the remake of a great comedy classic by Ernest Lubitsch about two famous Polish actors who come up with a way to fight off Nazi occupation and help the resistance by using their skills and theatre comedy to pose as Nazis. The concept is great and the film is mildly entertaining though certainly understudied and lacking the kick of even the irreverence of its predecessor - this latter point in fact may just be the most disappointing factor of this particular film version. Costumes and sets are great and there is no doubt about the production values, yet a lot can be said about pace and some inconsistencies in the script, which in many ways makes this film seem more outdated that Lubitsch's one.
Super Reviewer
½ December 8, 2013
Because of Brooks' involvement, the humor is of a decidedly wackier nature than the original and while that isn't bad (there are a lot of great moments) it does mean that the serious elements of the story feel more out of place here.
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