“We’re marching to a faster pace / Look out, here comes the Master Race”
I haven’t seen the Nathan Lane-Matthew Broderick Broadway show of THE PRODUCERS, based on Mel Brooks’ film masterpiece of bad taste (but since when has that stopped me from commenting on movies involving people named “Mel”). So I have trepidation about the announcement of a film based on the record-setting musical. This remake had best be something completely different from the original movie. Or not.
THE PRODUCERS is only (*only*) my choice for 3rd-or-4th funniest movie of all time (the funniest is DR. STRANGELOVE — another pitch-black comedy), but it does have the funniest single scene — the debut of the play “Springtime for Hitler,” an attempt to make the worst play ever. The E! article I linked to says this is the only scene the play takes directly from the film, which is a bad sign, depending on what will surround it. A “vulgar” PRODUCERS has an impossible act to follow, so the easy temptation would be to surround “Springtime for Hitler” with (relatively speaking at least) “nice” material. But what made Brooks’ film great is that the logic of offense is built into its every fiber — the film wasn’t interested in “breaking taboos,” with all the pedagogical schoolmarm baggage that implies. Instead, it just amped the offense up to 12 to reflect how desperate and how unscrupulous were Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom — willing to do anything to get their way, whether it be mash with unnaturally randy little old ladies or to put Nazism on Broadway as kitsch.
When told THE PRODUCERS was vulgar, Brooks responded mock-pompously that “it rises below vulgarity.” But filmmakers now are reluctant to offend as bluntly and gleefully as Brooks, Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars and Dick Shawn would. Homosexuals, hippies, Jews (on other grounds even), women — every protected group today can find something to hate in Brooks’ film. I don’t see it happening again — and it’s not political correctness exactly. It’s just a generalized “niceness” and unwillingness in mass-entertainment to ridicule a potential audience segment. In other words, if the rest of the new film is as “nice” as I suspect, the “Springtime for Hitler” number would probably become a mere provocation — and thus unfunny and offensive. It was brilliant as the final capper in the “can-you-top-THIS” series of offense-givings that had preceded it.
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