Another thing that hasn't fared well are the performances. Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) originally inhabited exclusive aspects of Mel Brook's psyche, creating something that resembled two different characters. The new Max and Leo, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, though, make the delineation somewhat less clear. Their mannerisms are at times very similar, and when Broderick launches into his best Gene Wilder impression (which he attempts admirably and with aplomb, but doesn't quite hit) and Lane plays it like Jerry Lewis, the two begin to sound an awful lot like parodies of one another.
True, having a cross-dressing queer play Hitler is slightly more of-the-moment than having Der Fuhrer played by a hippie -- but, really, people have been joking for years about how Hitler was gay. Full of marginal improvements and hesitant updates of a film that wasn't even very edgy for its time, The Producers is funny, just not very inventive.
If Hollywood is remaking The Producers, we have to ask ourselves, why not remake Blazing Saddles as well? It's aged just about the same, carrying the air of a once-biting satire that still retains some of vague hint of a subversive edge. The problem with that, of course, is that it's too damn old to offend anyone -- too old, really, to tell us anything new about our times. What got The Producers a remake had more to do with profit potential than relevance. A bunch of Broadway-goers thought it'd be a lark to let their hair down and have a laugh at their own expense -- partly, I suspect, because Brooks' Bialystock and Bloom are more community theater than Broadway, and thus don't hit too close to home -- making the 35-years-outdated stage adaptation a huge hit. Lacking a similarly large, monied audience of urbane black cowboys, Blazing Saddles -- despite lampooning more timely subjects -- has very little chance of earning a remake. That sad reality of 21st-century movie remakes ultimately leaves a sweet, tart comedy tasting sour.