For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? Producer and impresario Max Bialystock (Nathan Lane, left) beseeches his fledgling accountant Leo Bloom (Matthew Broderick) to explain why Max has yet to produce a successful Broadway musical.

The Producers: Tony Award-Winner Arrives on Screen as Raucous Musical Comedy

Movie Review by Kam Williams

When the movie The Producers was first released in 1968, it marked the directorial debut of Mel Brooks who was then best known as the co-creator, with Buck Henry, of the popular TV series Get Smart. Brooks was awarded an Oscar for his first film's script about a conspiracy between an impresario and an accountant to produce a Broadway musical that was sure to be a flop.

Following his success, Brooks left television for the cinema where he made his name synonymous with comedy by producing a string of screen classics: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, and Spaceballs.

In 2001, his wife, the late Anne Bancroft, convinced him to rewrite The Producers for the stage as a musical comedy. The play, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, received a record-breaking dozen Tony Awards.

Instead of retiring at the age of 79 as one of a handful of entertainers who received Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Academy Awards, Brooks decided to re-adapt his hit show as a movie. He managed to keep much of his creative team intact, which is why the film looks like the work of veterans who are comfortable with each other.

Susan Stroman directed and choreographed, Mel Brooks wrote and scored, while Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick reprised their lead roles as impressario Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom respectively. Also returning are Gary Beach as Roger de Bris and Roger Bart as his assistant Carmen Ghia. Newcomers to the principal cast include Uma Thurman as Ulla, a Swedish ingénue; Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind, a neo-Nazi, and Jon Lovitz as Mr. Marks, Leo's overbearing boss.

Set in New York City during the fifties, the movie opens with Max in despair over the closing of the latest in a long line of Broadway flops that he's produced. Leo, while examining the books, ingenuously suggests that the only way to make money in the theater business was to put on a play that was certain to fail.

Max seizes on the offhand remark, and the two devise a plan to bilk investors. They set out in search of the most tasteless script, the worst director, and an awful cast; planning to split the investor's money when the show closes on opening night. Unexpectedly, the play, Springtime for Hitler, turns out to be a sensation, and major complications ensue.

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick exhibit perfect comic timing, and they dance and sing in several showstoppers. Also Will Ferrell shamelessly steals many scenes and Uma Thurman oozes a sinful sensuality. Perhaps the strongest chemistry is between Gary Beach and Roger Bart. Be prepared to laugh from the opening through the closing credits.

Excellent (4 stars). Rating: PG-13 for crude humor and sexual references. Running time: 134 minutes. Studio: Universal Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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