The Films of Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks' The Producers (November 30/13)
It's admittedly rather astonishing that Mel Brooks' The Producers is regarded as an all-time great Hollywood comedy, as the movie, which follows Zero Mostel's Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder's Leo Bloom as they set out to produce a Broadway bomb, suffers from a pervasive lack of laughs that's compounded by writer/director Mel Brooks' relentlessly (and exhaustingly) over-the-top sensibilities. It doesn't help, either, that Brooks kicks off the proceedings with a slow-moving and stagy opening half hour set entirely within the cramped confines of Bialystock's low-rent office, with the ineffectiveness of this stretch immediately holding the viewer at arms length from the material and establishing an awkward, less-than-promising atmosphere. And although Wilder's typically engaging performance remains a highlight - his "I'm hysterical and I'm wet!" rant is a rare laugh-out-loud bit of silliness - Mel Brooks' The Producers progresses at a plodding pace that's perpetuated by Brooks' continuing emphasis on horribly misguided gags and comedic set pieces (including an endless psychedelic musical number and the protagonists' shamefully sexist treatment of their secretary). The film does, admittedly, grow somewhat watchable once it passes a certain point, and yet the terminally unfunny vibe remains a consistent (and constant) hindrance to one's wholehearted enjoyment of the picture - which ultimately does cement Mel Brooks' The Producers place as an almost passable yet thoroughly dated misfire.