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Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in 'The Producers'

Movie Info

RATING:

PG-13 for sexual humor and references.

RELEASED:

December 25th, 2005

GENRE:

Comedy

STARRING:

Will Ferrell, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Gary Beach

DIRECTOR:

Susan Stroman

WRITERS:

Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan

DISTRIBUTOR:

Universal Pictures

 

Please Note

In providing movie reviews on our site, CBN.com is not endorsing or recommending films we review. Our goal is to provide Christians with information about the latest movies, both the good and the bad, so that our readers may make an informed decision as to whether or not films are appropriate for them and their families.

MOVIE REVIEW

The Producers

MovieGuide Magazine

CBN.comThe musical adaptation of The Producers, a 1968 comedy starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, is a bawdy, satirical salute to Broadway. It is extremely funny and the musical numbers are very entertaining and often (but not always) clean. But it is a bawdy work that contains strong homosexual references. These references are not as politically correct and offensive as Brokeback Mountain and other movies with such content. In fact, The Producers seems to be a rejection of overt homosexuality. This may be a little too charitable, but, even so, the movie’s homosexual characters come across as mentally insane, tasteless and goofy, in a funny way.

Furthermore, one of the homosexual characters is identified, in a satirical way, with Adolf Hitler, thus suggesting that Hitler himself was homosexual. This notion may not be too far off the mark in reality.

Like the original comedy by Mel Brooks, the musical version (also written by Mel Brooks) opens with accountant Leo Bloom visiting Max Bialystock, a seedy Broadway producer who now only makes flops. While examining Max’s books, Leo suggests offhand that, if he were clever, a producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit. All the producer has to do is raise more money than he intends to spend on the production and ensure that the production is so bad that it is sure to flop. No investor expects a return on his money if a show flops, Leo points out. And, if you fix the books, even the IRS doesn’t bother you.

Of course, this kind of creative accounting is exactly the way in which some Hollywood producers and book publishers operate. They use their flops as a tax write-off and sometimes hide the real profits from their actors, authors, and other lowly employees in a tangled web of creative accounting.

Max and Leo search everywhere, but find only one script that is sure to flop. Titled “Springtime for Hitler,” the script is a defense of Adolf Hitler, written by a pro-Nazi German draft dodger named Franz. To make sure the play is a flop, Max and Leo hire the most tasteless homosexual production team and director they can find. Finally, they pick Franz to portray Hitler in the play.

Something goes wrong, of course, and Max and Leo are in danger of going to jail.

Will Ferrell in 'The Producers'The Golden Era of the Hollywood musical comedy is long gone, and MovieGuide® mourns the passing of such fabulous talents as Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers. But, Mel Brooks brings back much of its spirit in this production directed by Susan Stroman and starring the comic genius and musical talents of Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Will Ferrell, a couple of new stars from the original Broadway production, and Uma Thurman, who plays a sexy Swedish dancer that captures Leo’s eye. Regrettably, the bawdy qualities and campy homosexual content in The Producers are often over-the-top, so extreme caution is necessary.

Of course, everything is played for laughs and satire. There are even plenty of relatively clean jokes in the movie to enjoy. For example, Leo’s attack of hysteria in Max’s office still makes for one of the funniest scenes ever filmed. Furthermore, the clean parts of the musical numbers are truly enjoyable. They show that music, dance and clean comedy can be among the most entertaining, joyous moments in a film or a play. If one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is joy, then a clean musical dance number with lots of clean comedy is one of the most uplifting and holy things an entertainer can do for an audience.

Despite its many bawdy qualities, there is a sweet, but romantic, center to both versions of The Producers. The friendship between Max and Leo is tested, but it is the friendship and respect between them that helps them endure failure, and even prison. Also, in the new version, the Swedish dancer tells a judge that Leo wouldn’t sleep with her until they were married. The judge calls Leo a schmuck for doing this, but the pattern for sexual purity outside of marriage is clearly established. And, Leo eventually turns out to be the most admirable character in the story, morally speaking, though he clearly is not perfect.

The movie’s dominant worldview, however, is Romantic, in the philosophical sense, because the movie extols the pursuit of personal happiness at the expense of a transcendent morality, such as the transcendent morality of God and the Bible. Thus, Max uses the sexual desires of little old ladies to raise money, but Leo asks the judge to forgive Max for doing this, because Max has brought happiness into their lives and the ladies really don’t mind the fact that someone pretended they were still desirable women. Thus, within this warped Romantic logic, an act of larceny becomes an act of kindness and chivalry. Leo also argues that, although Max got Leo into trouble, Max gave Leo a new reason for living by giving him the chance to pursue his dream of becoming a Broadway producer and find the girl of his dreams. Thus, Leo achieves a sense of Romantic freedom through Max. Romantic freedom is not Christian liberty, however. With Christian liberty, the convert is free to serve God in the best, most moral, and most personally fulfilling ways in which God intends. Serving God in this manner is a better joy than you can possibly imagine using your own power, Jesus Christ and the New Testament documents argue time and time again. Therefore, follow the kind of liberty and the kind of destiny that Jesus sets out before you, because Jesus alone offers true happiness, joy and love.

Finally, although some, or even many, people will be offended (in more ways than one) by the movie’s satire of homosexuality, Adolf Hitler and National Socialism, the effect of these satirical references is not as simple as it may seem. For example, Franz tells Leo and Max that Hitler’s middle name was really Elizabeth. Later, the homosexual director they hire, Roger DeBris, tells Max that his middle name is Elizabeth. This may just be a goofy joke in the movie, but it not only makes fun of Hitler, it also suggests that Hitler was a homosexual like Roger. Thus, in one fell swoop, the movie mocks both Hitler and homosexuality. Other satirical scenes in the movie also mock Hitler, National Socialists, homosexuals, and their behavior.

On the other hand, there are at least two scenes in the movie where homosexual characters satirize Hitler. These scenes have the effect of casting homosexuals and homosexuality in a positive light. Here, Mel Brooks and his team suggest that homosexual satire and homosexual camp are a good way, and a successful way, to undermine and attack the actual horrors that Hitler’s Germany visited upon the world.

One can agree with Brooks that satire in general is a valid means of attacking this evil, and many other evils. There is a satirical edge in the Bible, for instance, to some of Jesus Christ’s criticisms of the evil around him. But, homosexuality is also an evil (in kind but not in degree if one only considers the murders that Hitler and National Socialists perpetrate). The Bible also tells us, however, not to attack evil with evil but to conquer evil with good. Thus, if what we say about these two scenes is, in fact, true, then, once again, The Producers has presented, in a roundabout fashion, more morally questionable content. One of these examples is very brief and thus minor, however.

Overall, the worldview and content in The Producers vary at times from a plus two to a minus four acceptability rating.

(Click here to learn about MovieGuide's rating system.)

Ultimately, its negative content and Romantic worldview hover around the minus one to minus four acceptability rating. Therefore, MovieGuide® gives the movie a minus three, mostly because of a couple strong sexual references, the movie’s strong, but comical, homosexual and cross dressing elements, and the Romantic worldview.

Although Max and Leo don’t get away with their crimes, as in some caper movies about bank robbers and jewel thieves to which we also sometimes give a minus three, the movie’s Romantic worldview casts a pall of moral relativism on the story. This is ultimately unacceptable, irrational, and morally confusing, as well as mentally confusing, to adults, and much more so to teenagers and children. The minus three rating may prove to be too harsh, considering the movie’s strong entertaining aspects, especially its cleaner moments and its light tone, but we’d rather err on the side of caution, justice, and biblical morality.

Address Comments To:
Bob Wright, Chairman/CEO
NBC Universal
Ron Meyer, President/COO
Stacey Snider, Chairman
Universal Pictures
Universal Studios
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000
Web Page: www.universalstudios.com


NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide Magazine. For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest Movieguide Magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at www.movieguide.org. Movieguide is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. Movieguide now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at www.movieguide.org. The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise consumers.

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