Friday, December 30, 2005

WE WERE WAITING, ANTICIPATING: So where exactly does The Producers: The Movie Musical of the Musical of The Movie go so badly, badly wrong? I have a few suggestions:
  • Susan Stroman, in spite of her general talents as a stage director, is simply not a movie director. Her camera almost never moves during the film. Static shot is followed by static shot, and often, the edits are fairly bloody--you can see the cuts. For instance, rather than pulling back to expose the panorama of Little Old Ladies following Bialystock around, we get a close-up on Bialystock running, followed by a cut to the broader shot. It just doesn't work.
  • The stage musical is full of meta-theatrical jokes, all of which have been excised with no attempt to replace them with movie in-jokes or other jokes. The absence might not be so great to a viewer who wasn't familiar with the show.
  • At the same time, stuff that worked on stage is translated too literally. Particularly painful is Leo and Ulla's coupling behind the couch, which works on stage as a stage moment, but absolutely does not in the film. A joke that hits big on stage (Roger De Bris' dress) misses completely, but there's still the beat for the expected laughter, which turns into a painful silence. Also, the entire film feels like it was shot on sets. Hell, probably half of it feels like it was shot on the stage of the St. James Theatre. Sure, there's some opening up, but that opening up doesn't help, especially in "Along Came Bialy."
  • Part of the joy of many of the musical numbers in the stage show is that there's something going on everywhere on stage. Stroman and her cinematographer have chosen to shoot many of the musical numbers in close-up on individual performers, losing that.

That said, the movie's not a complete loss. Will Ferrell in particular is great, and "I Want To Be A Producer" is successfully (and excellently) opened up, at least at the beginning. Make sure to stay all the way to the end of the credits, though, even though the new "There's Nothing Like A Show On Broadway" song is bland, so you can hear Ferrell's power ballad rendition of "Guten Tag Hop Clop" and a closing farewell taken from the show. I'd be interested to see how people unfamiliar with the Broadway show and/or Broderick and Lane's theatrical performance view the movie, but somehow, I expect there won't be a whole lot of those people viewing the film.

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