| The Red Right Hand
Having just suffered excruciating dental surgery I was not really in the mood for a larger-than-life musical film; or so I thought. The 1968 version of The Producers starred Gene Wilder as the timid, insecure accountant, Leo Bloom; I'm not really much of a Wilder fan - unless he's starring alongside Richard Pryor - but still managed to enjoy the whole Mel-Brooks-driven experience. Then I got wind of a remake being made with Matthew Broderick [Bloom] and Nathan Lane [Bialystock] (good, good, reuniting the two from their sell-out New York & London version of this story, sounds promising...) and the leading lady, Ulla, to be played by Uma Thurman? Uma-Bloody-Thurman!? She was hacking up dudes in Kill Bill last Easter, what's she doing playing a ditzy Swedish bird in a musical? Can she even sing? (Hmm..) With so many contemporary remakes opting for a modern take on a classic plot, then crashing and burning because the story doesn't work in a modern setting. I had much to fear for Stroman's version of The Producers. True to the original, the film opens on 1959 broadway, New York with the first song of the film being played, 'Opening Night.' It's a loud, flamboyant number about Bialystock's latest show (Henry V: The Musical) being an absolute disaster. We then cut to a long introductory scene between Bialystock and Bloom - the accountant sent to aid the failing producer. Broderick & Lane work fantastically well together, mixing Lane's high-pitched portrayal of the depressed, run down with Broderick's clearly Wilder-inspired delirious shouting and manic screaming - the best example is when Bialystock snatches Bloom's handkerchief-sized blanket, leaving shouting hysterically and uncontrollably, "MY BLUE BLANKET! GIVE ME MY BLUE BLANKET!"
On checking Bialystock's accounts Bloom notices that $2000 is unaccounted for and seemingly embezzled but considering that the show was a flop, the backer couldn't be paid and so the money wouldn't be missed. Following an extravagant song-and-dance sequence - which clearly shows that a lot of the cast from the still-running stage production have been hired in an attempt to ensure success - a plan hatches in the minds of our two leads as they formulate a way of putting on the worst possible show with the worst and actors and directors. Bialystock then runs off to 'stoop every little old lady in New York' (as Ulla put it), cue another hilarious musical stint. Having acquired funds, Bloom & Bialystock's next stop is to acquire a script and after reading through hundreds of awful scripts (one of which is Kafka's Metamorphoses) they come across 'Springtime For Hitler.' Desperate to gain the rights to the script, Bloom & Bialystock find themselves donning swastikas and pledging their lasting loyalty to The Fuehrer, at the command of the completely insane Franz Liebkind [Ferrel]. With script in hand they then set off to find the worst director to put on their show; this takes the form of Roger De Bris [Beach] and his partner/assistant, Carmen Ghia [Bart]. After a flamboyant number about how to direct a successful script (ie. 'Make It Gay'), De Bris reluctantly agrees to work on the project.
On return to their office Bialystock & Bloom are confronted by the tall, sultry blonde Swede, Ulla [Thurman]. Despite her thick accent and lack of experience, they hire Ulla as not only the leading lady but also their secretary. Thurman is keen for the part and carries her songs well enough, yet something feels amiss and although I cannot fully explain it she feels incredibly miscast. If this is your first Uma Thurman film experience then you'll be pleased with her performance - then probably become extremely disturbed if you see anything else (especially if it's that God-awful 'Be Cool') - as opposed to everyone else who won't be able to shake the image of her plucking out one of the Crazy 88's eyeballs.
Similar to Chicago, the songs are elaborate and enthralling yet seem to lack the brass of the live show - I believe it's the lack of a theatre (theatre used in its proper context, as opposed to the American belief that a theater means theatre and cinema) atmosphere; the lack of applause, where applause is due. Director, Stroman, is the choreographer for the current stage production so all the musical numbers are directed with a flair and style that brings the audience reeling into the film. Unfortunately this doesn't carry with the verbal scenes, which seem fairly dull in comparison - having said that Brook's original was fairly rudimentary in its style, as the comedic interactions carry the scenes well enough on their own. I was thoroughly entertained but whether this remake holds with fans of the original or live show remains to be seen.
26 December 2005
The Scene To Look Out For:
Bialystock & Bloom return to their office to find it completely white-washed; the walls, the furniture, even the phone is glistening with fresh white paint, all courtesy of Ulla's attempts to tidy up.
Everyone was great but if I had to pick it would be Carmen Ghia, his over-the-top mannerisms and awful haircut had me cracking up continuously. His introduction alone is genius, answering the phone "Hello, the living room of renowned theatrical director Roger De Bris' elegant Upper East Side townhouse on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in June. Whom may I say is calling?.... Listen, you broken down old queen. He was drunk, he was hot, you got lucky! Don't ever call here again!"
"Smell it, touch it, kiss it... KISS IT! It's the mother lode!"
In A Few Words:
"A colourful, vibrant remake that's sure to please"