- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Those who missed Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the Tony Award-winning musical “The Producers,” take heart. A cinematic touring company is coming to a city near you.

“The Producers,” the film version of the musical based on the 1968 film — everybody take a breath — provides that valuable service but little more.

Maybe the third time can’t be the charm for this dog-eared story of two producers and their can’t-hit smash.

The biggest casting change that never got made came when Susan Stroman got the call to direct her own musical. Miss Stroman’s maiden effort behind the camera suffers from a palpable lack of vision.

Exemplary film musicals such as 1979’s “Hair” opened up the action to take advantage of the medium. “The Producers” feels as if it was shot over the weekend on a free soundstage. A few sequences hint at something more, such as the elderly-lady dance sequence that spills out onto a Manhattan street.

What’s left is the musical itself, a tuneful if dated romp through the mind of creator Mel Brooks. We could all make millions selling plots in such fertile real estate.

For the uninitiated, “The Producers” picks up with Max Bialystock (Mr. Lane) licking his wounds from yet another Broadway bomb. His nebbish of an accountant (Mr. Broderick as Leo) makes a life-altering suggestion that chases away his misery.

With a little creative accounting, a producer could make a killing from a dud, Leo reasons.

That’s all the dyspeptic Max needs to contrive his greatest scheme, finding a surefire Broadway flop to make him rich.

But how do you find a play that’s so awful it guarantees failure?

Enter “Springtime for Hitler.”

Max and Leo track down the play’s loony author (Will Ferrell) and secure the worst imaginable director (Roger Bart) to leave nothing to chance.

We all know what happens from there — a politically incorrect hoot of a show with a goose-stepping Adolf and friends.

Onstage, it’s hard to find fault with either Mr. Lane or Mr. Broderick, but their collective comic mugging doesn’t belong on the silver screen. Such broad gestures play better to the cheap seats.

“The Producers” can’t capture the magic of the Broadway original, and thanks to Miss Stroman’s hamstrung approach, it won’t make anyone forget the 1968 version, either.

**

WHAT: “The Producers”

RATING: PG-13 (Sexual humor, coarse language and sexual situations)

CREDITS: Directed by Susan Stroman. Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. Screenplay by Mr. Brooks and Thomas Meehan. Choreography by Miss Stroman

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

WEB SITE: www.theproducersmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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