To Be or Not to Be | Chicago Reader

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This 1983 remake of the Ernst Lubitsch classic about a theatrical troupe in Nazi-occupied Poland follows the original screenplay so closely that it's funny by association, but without Lubitsch's point-of-view complexities—in fact, without any direction to speak of—the farce plotting falls flat. I can't remember another film that took so little care with the details of ambience: the cruddy sets and flat, underworked sound track drain any sense of life from the project, to the point where it looks like the cheapest kind of TV—canned theater. Mel Brooks is rather appealing in an unusually naturalistic performance, but Anne Bancroft's Great Lady posturing brings him down. Alan Johnson directed; with Tim Matheson (a casting coup—the perfect 80s equivalent to Robert Stack), Charles Durning, and Jose Ferrer. PG, 108 min.

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