Directed by Susan Stroman, starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Roger Bart, Gary Breach and Will Ferrell.

There are times when you hear about a film in the pipeline and you know that, even before a clapperboard is clapped, the director has their work cut for them. For her movie directorial debut, Susan Stroman, the five-time Tony Award-winning choreographer and director who helmed the musical version of Mel Brooks' 'The Producers' on Broadway, signed up to bring it to the big screen. A brave move: not only did she have to contend with the worldwide fans of Mel Brooks' 1968 Gene Wilder-starring movie, there were also the legions who loved Broderick and Lane in the Stroman-directed Broadway musical to keep happy. How many of either will be happy with this film is anyone's guess.

Reprising their Broadway roles Lane and Broderick are Bialystock and Bloom, a washed-up impresario and timid accountant who team up for a foolproof moneymaking scheme. If they find the worst play imaginable and get the money from Bialystock's elderly admirers to back it, then the play will be savaged and close on opening night, leaving the duo with a tidy sum that they don't have to pay back. The musical they find is 'Springtime for Hitler' - an unhinged, taste-free tribute from the mind of Nazi fugitive Franz Liebkind (Ferrell). Determined to make the musical as bad as is (in)humanly possible, Bialystock and Bloom hire Roger De Bris (Beach), the Broadway director with more turkeys than Christmas, and plot how to spend their fortune. What could possibly go wrong?

The Lane and Broderick-starring Broadway version of 'The Producers' is credited by some as bringing back some sparkle and fun to the showbiz district in the aftermath of 11 September. But what works on stage doesn't necessarily work on screen and while the musical numbers here are good, it seems plenty of magic has been lost along the way. In the flesh there's no doubt Lane and Broderick would be a hoot, but without a live audience and the spontaneity and tightrope walking which ensues, much of the humour here feels either too flat or over-the-top. Decent and colourful routines can't compensate for that and so you're left with a film with a couple of highlights - Ferrell, if you're a Ferrell fan and Thurman's hitherto untapped comedic potential - but one which runs into problems once the singing stops.

While 'Chicago' was a film that even non-musical fans would watch, this is for aficionados of the genre only. There's no fear of it closing after one night, but packed houses seem remote.

Harry Guerin