By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 14, 2012 at 3:14PM
When Mel Brooks' classic 1968 comedy about the making of a Broadway disaster itself became a stage show, it was a colossal success, breaking box-office records, and earning a remarkable twelve Tony nominations, with stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick both nominated, and Lane winning. So what the hell happened when it came to the screen? While fitfully funny (thanks to some spirited performance from Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman), it was mostly a tone-deaf translation of the stage show with no feel for movie musicals, and that was never truer than in the performances of Lane and Broderick. It's almost inexplicable the degree to which both stars (who've done plenty of fine film work over the years) completely failed to adjust what they were doing to fit the screen. The actors still feel like they're trying to hit the back row of a 1,500-seat theater, rather than a camera eight feet away, and the results are almost grotesquely over the top, even by the standards of the genre -- you feel like you're being beaten up by a pair of mugging musical theater grads, rather than much-lauded stage veterans. And of course, they're not just battling the ghosts of their own theater performances, but also the pitch-perfect ones by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in Brooks' film, the comparisons becoming more brutal when on screen. It's frankly beyond belief that no one, not least director Susan Stroman, didn't think to take a little time between takes to suggest they tone it down a bit.
As pretty much every comments section piece on every piece we've ever written on Gerard Butler attests, the Scottish actor has a fervent female fan base who'll ride to his defense at even the faintest breath of criticism directed towards him. But even they must surely feel that his title role in Joel Schumacher's disastrous take on Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Broadway smash was far from his finest hour. It should be an instantly iconic role, one that's made stars of everyone from Lon Chaney to Michael Crawford, and yet Butler couldn't be more anonymous -- clearly struggling under the mask, he's lacking entirely in charisma, in allure and in mystery, he's just... there. All in all, it feels he'd be better fitted to one of the more out-there daytime soap operas than a film like this, and he can't even sink to the levels of camp that Schumacher clearly wants the film to go to. And he just looks duller next to co-star Emmy Rossum, who's actually pretty great in the film -- it's surprising she didn't become bigger star as a result. And while Butler can handle the songs a little better than some of the people on this list, he still flounders a little to reach the high notes. Fortunately, no such struggles were needed when he led "300" and finally became a star.