PG-13 for sexual humor and
December 25th, 2005
Will Ferrell, Nathan Lane,
Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Gary Beach
Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
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The 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.
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.
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
Ron Meyer, President/COO
Stacey Snider, Chairman
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.
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