Aye, it’s a very good filmed musical.
Frankly rather stagey, though.
The starting scene, for example, in Bialystock’s office, is tiresome. It seemed like an imitation of another kind of film. And I’m not saying this because I saw the original; I never saw the original. It just feels like they’re simply impersonating a musical film comedy of the ’30s or ’40s, and they are making a commendable stab, but not quite, of recapturing the physical humour. It’s tiresome.
The song and dance numbers are where it really opens up. They’re vibrant, and imaginative, and integral to the story. They seem to fit into the story better than those in, say Chicago—possibly because The Producers is a comedy and can plain get away with breaking the bounds of reality for a few song and dance numbers. In fact they poke quite a few other jokes at the 4th wall, and they do carry them off (with positive aplomb).
However, much of the direction and acting is too broad for cinema. In too many shots, the camera could have been twice as far away, and the gag, or the move, or whatever would still have worked, or worked better. The director doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with a motion picture camera (except in the musical numbers, and that’s probably only ’cos the Director of Photography boned up on Busby Berkeley before filming).
Also, it could have ended sooner. It doesn’t feel overlong; just that there’s a lot of plot and if they had cut the last few scenes or so you would still be getting value-for-cinema-ticket .
Uma Thurman played the bombshell role beautifully. Will Ferrell was appropriately mad and crazy. Nathan Lane was perfect… except… Bialystock is supposed to be boning old ladies for money. That’s sick and twisted, and didn’t seem quite ever to be mined for all its comedy potential. Nathan Lane’s fault, or the writers’? I dunno. Matthew Broderick is generally decent. However, I think a better director could have pulled a steller performance from him, rather than a generally-decent one.
Watch it for the musical numbers. However, I’m guessing that the original (1968) version is a better film.