The question re: "The Producers" would not be "Is it any good?" but "How good is it?" It's got to be good! How could it not be good? Or even great. It's "The Producers," after all.

The original, from 1968, may be the funniest movie ever made. It combined brilliance of many kinds -- of premise, of performance (Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder), of audacity ("Springtime for Hitler"), of sentimentality (for old Broadway, which New Yorker Mel Brooks clearly loved), of satire, of outrageousness.

Then, years later, along came "The Producers" to Broadway, now musicalized, where in 2001 it set a record by winning 12 Tonys, including best musical, best book (Brooks and Thomas Meehan), best actor (Nathan Lane), best featured actor and actress (Gary Beach and Cady Huffman), and best choreographer and director (Susan Stroman).

An ideal world would mandate an ideal "Producers" starring Lane and Wilder. Alas, back here in the real world, Stroman's film stars her legit-boards boys Lane and Matthew Broderick. It's not that Broderick is bad, or even disappointing; he's something far worse -- he's not Gene Wilder. Broderick is just Matthew Broderick: hardworking, decent, possibly charisma-challenged.

The premise of "The Producers" is brilliant in its simplicity: A longtime producer, Max Bialystock (Lane), and a naive accountant, Leo Bloom (Broderick), realize that it's possible to make more money on a flop than on a hit, by oversubscribing investments. Thus they work crazily to put on the worst show in Broadway history, coming up with a paean to the Third Reich called "Springtime for Hitler." Of course they fail completely by succeeding wildly. A hit, a hit, a palpable hit!

So how good is the movie of the musical of the movie? The answer is: It's pretty good.

It's too long to be great and it's too square to be great and it's too loud to be great and it finds homosexual effeminacy too funny to ever be called great, but I can't imagine anyone coming out sadder than they went in.

-- Stephen Hunter