The Producers Reviews
There is consistently a feeling that The Producers is very much just a stage production filmed for the big screen. The entire film occurs within a select collection of locations which are mostly interiors that seem as if they have been stylised to form the shape of a stage production. The cinematography maintains this same kind of feeling because it presents itself in a style which is all too traditional, and the cast members frequently break through the fourth wall. There is no illusion of narrative in The Producers as everything is too frequently a reminder of a production that would have been superior on the stage. There's a certain guilty pleasure that theatrical aficionados may get out of the film, but for me it was too much of a stage production that wasn't making such an attempt to disguise itself as a film. If I wanted to see the stage production then I would, but I came in to see a film and certainly didn't feel like that's what I got from The Producers.
Even though the film is an adaptation of a stage production, a film must still maintain the virtues of a film. This means there must be character and story development, but The Producers doesn't see eye to eye with this prophecy. The feature is trapped in the nostalgia of the heyday of musical cinema; one of the earliest eras of cinema when popular cinema was all about showing off technical expertise more than anything. The Producers comes from 2005 when the standard for cinematic glory had reached the heights of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). The Producers ultimately feels a little too simplistic for its own good, and this is understandable when considering the fact that director Susan Stroman made her cinematic directorial debut with The Producers after finding luck with the stage production of the same name. She is not yet suited to the world of cinema as she fails to explore the source material in an appropriately cinematic style. There is no denying that she brings energetic passion to the production, but it fails to justify the transition from stage to screen. By the end of the film I felt like I had been given an empty experience; one which was stylish but simply went nowhere. And 134 minutes of this is a little too much time to dedicate to content which is ultimately too little.
As far as the musical numbers go, The Producers certainly brings in a talented combination of cast and musicians. With multiple actors who came straight from the stage production and numerous talented new additions, The Producers manages to capture the perfect theme for its musical numbers through a talented assortment of singers. The orchestra manages to make a spirited contribution of support as well, so the songs come off very effectively. And the film boasts some visual strength even if the cinematography and stage structure aren't a part of them. It's the colourful costumes that really snag the viewer's eye, and they keep viewers enticed during the terrific dance numbers.
And the cast of The Producers certainly help to bring life to the experience.
Nathan Lane's leading performance is a terrific effort. The man's natural over-the-top persona brings theatrical flamboyance to the film which is frequently enough of a gimmick to disguise from the lack of character development. The man is perfectly camp and proudly self-obsessive in every inch of his body, and he shows it off through energetic dance moves and remarkable singing voice. Nathan Lane makes it clear that he was born to be a Broadway star because he steals the screen so very consistently throughout The Producers and never loses sight of his dedication to manic physical energy so he is a perfect lead.
Will Ferrell is also a striking presence. Though he hardly gets as much screen time as he deserves, the comic actor makes relentlessly over-the-top effort in The Producers. Playing true to the Nazi stereotype with merciless bumbling incompetence, Will Ferrell screams and shouts his character in a trajectory of self-confusion which is all too hilarious to witness. Refusing to break out of the stereotype of the character, Will Ferrell spirals into an endless pit of maniacal energy which lights up the screen with hilarious results. Will Ferrell's presence in The Producers is the most powerful of the entire supporting cast.
Uma Thurman's presence is just wonderful. While I once found her attempts at campy seduction in Batman & Robin (1997) to be truly pathetic, she is perfectly camp in The Producers. There are times where one might forget it is Uma Thurman as she is ridiculously airheaded in a manner she has never been before. With her high-pitched accent, magnificent singing voice and undeniable sex appeal, Uma Thurman proves that she is a truly talented actress in the art of comedy and musical theatre. Uma Thurman transitions into more theatrical roots which exceptional charm in The Producers, and it remains a very memorable performance from her filmography.
However, Matthew Broderick's performance would be far better suited for the stage than the screen. I like the actor and his many comic talents, but The Producers does not make proper use of them. We gather that the man has a talented knack for singing and dancing, but he is not exactly in tune for a film. His effort is too restrained to match up to the intentions of the film, and there is no feeling of distinctive charm from him. In fact, I spent the entire film just comparing his performance to the Academy Award-nominated effort of Gene Wilder when he first brought the part to the cinematic screen in 1968. Matthew Broderick's tone of voice fails to match up to his physical movements a lot of the time which just comes off as strange, so he fails to transition any better than the rest of the film.
The Producers boasts a talented cast, but its inability to even try and transcend its theatrical nature makes it an underdeveloped and simplistic narrative that should have remained on the stage.