Friday, January 13, 2006


A few weeks ago, I saw the new film The Producers, the filmed version of the Broadway musical based on Mel Brooks's 1968 film The Producers. It wasn't an unpleasant time, thanks largely to the strength of Brooks's 1968 screenplay, much of which is carried over intact. But mainly, it made me want to watch the original film again. So I borrowed the DVD from the library, and watched it, which made me realize that the new film isn't just inferior to the original, but a travesty of it.

Leave aside that all the best things in the new film were done first, and better, in the original; that nearly all the changes made are for the worst (a few of the new gags are good); that the new songs are mediocre, in both words and music, and that when the numbers replace scenes in the original film, as most of them do, they're usually inferior to those scenes; that Lane and Broderick are no Mostel and Wilder, though they certainly try. (I once criticized Mostel's performance in the first fifteen minutes of the film Rhinoceros, but he was born to play Max Bialystock.)

Leaving, as I say, all that aside, the basic difference between the two films is this: the original film was small, quirky, and (though it may seem strange to apply this word to a film that was originally notorious for its bad taste) sweet. The new film is a big, loud machine: with big, loud, mechanical numbers, big, loud, mechanical jokes, and big, loud, mechanical characters.

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