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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Though a big commercial & critical disappointment, the Mel Brooks/Susan Stroman musicalization of his 1968 cult fave typifies his hit-to-miss ratio. What’s been lost is the grubby texture of ‘60s indie film production, the physical dilapidation of ‘Fun City’ (the remake goes back to late ‘50s/early ‘60s glam) and the physical threat that Zero Mostel brought so uncomfortably with him on screen. Nathan Lane, for all his technical abilities, always comes off as harmless in key roles originally played by Walter Matthau, Sam Levene, Mostel & Phil Silvers; the gags aren’t grounded, they don’t wound. On the other hand, Matthew Broderick is so blazingly precise, he manages to find equivalents for Gene Wilder ’s hysteria arias. (Live on stage, Broderick is something of an intuitive genius.) But the songs never feel necessary (the best two are hiding in the deleted area of the DVD) and all the singing dulls the shock effect of "Springtime For Hitler,’ which killed in its original clumsy low-tech absurdity.

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