The film was released in the United States by Universal Pictures in a limited release on December 16, 2005, followed by a wide release on December 25. It garnered generally mixed reviews from critics and was a commercial failure, earning $38 million worldwide from a $45 million budget.
Following the flop of theatre musical Funny Boy (based on William Shakespeare's Hamlet) ("Opening Night"), the show's washed-up producer, Max Bialystock, hires the neurotic Leo Bloom as his accountant. While studying Max's books, Leo notes that a flop is expected to lose money, the IRS won't investigate the finances of failed productions. Leo jests by selling an excess of shares and embezzling the funds, a flop could generate up to $2 million. Max asks for Leo's help with the scheme, only for the latter to refuse ("We Can Do It").
Returning to his old accounting firm, Leo starts fantasizing about being a Broadway producer ("I Wanna Be a Producer"). Leo quits his job and forms "Bialystock & Bloom" with Max. Searching for the worst play written, the duo finds Springtime for Hitler, a musical written by an ex-Nazi named Franz Liebkind. Max and Leo, in order to acquire Franz's rights to the musical, perform Hitler's favorite song and swear the sacred "Siegfried Oath" to him ("Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop").
In order to ensure the play's failure, Max and Leo meet failing, flamboyant director Roger De Bris and his assistant Carmen Ghia. Roger is reluctant to direct, but when Max and Leo suggest he could win a Tony Award, he agrees on the condition that the play be more "gay" ("Keep It Gay"). Returning to their office, a Swedish woman named Ulla, appears to audition. Leo objects they have not started casting, Max hires her as their secretary until they audition her later ("When You've Got It, Flaunt It").
To gain backers to fund the musical, Max has dalliances with several elderly women ("Along Came Bialy"), allowing him to raise the $2 million. Leo laments about the dangers of sex straying him from his work, only for a kiss to occur between Leo and Ulla ("That Face"). Starting auditions for the role of Hitler, Franz becomes angered at a performer's rendition of a German song, causing Franz to storm the stage and perform it ("Haben Sie gehört das Deutsche Band?"). Based on the performance, Max hires Franz to play Hitler.
On opening night, as the cast and crew prepare to go on stage, Leo wishes everyone good luck, to which everyone warns it is bad luck to say "good luck" on opening night, and that the correct phrase is to say "break a leg" ("You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night"). Franz leaves to prepare and breaks his leg. Max enlists Roger to perform the role in his place, and Roger accepts.
As the show opens, the audience is horrified at the first song ("Springtime for Hitler"), and people begin leaving out of disgust until Roger enters as Hitler. Roger, playing Hitler very flamboyantly, causes the audience to misinterpret the play as satire, resulting in the show becoming a smash. Terrified the IRS will learn of their crimes, a dispute breaks out between Max and Leo. Franz then appears, and attempts to shoot the duo for breaking the Siegfried Oath by mocking Hitler, only to attract the police. Max and Franz attempt to evade the police, only for Franz to break his other leg.
Arrested for his tax fraud, Max is imprisoned while Leo hides from the police. Leo elopes with Ulla to Rio de Janeiro, leaving Max to his fate ("Betrayed"). About to be sentenced in court, Max is saved by Leo, who returns to defend him ("'Til Him"). The judge, realizing Max and Leo are inseparable, sentences them both to five years at Sing Sing Prison with Franz. Writing and producing a new musical in prison ("Prisoners of Love"), Leo, Max, and Franz are pardoned by the governor for their work, allowing them to collaborate with Roger and Ulla and release Prisoners of Love. The play's success means Max and Leo go on to become successful Broadway producers.
In a post-credits scene, the cast sings "Goodbye!", telling the audience to leave the theater.Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock
Matthew Broderick as Leopold "Leo" Bloom
Uma Thurman as Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (later Bloom)
Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind
Gary Beach as Roger De Bris
Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia
Jon Lovitz as Mr. Marks
Michael McKean as Prison Trustee
David Huddleston as Judge
Richard Kind as Jury Foreman
Eileen Essell as Hold Me-Touch Me
Debra Monk as Lick Me-Bite Me
Andrea Martin as Kiss Me-Feel Me
John Barrowman as the Lead Tenor Stormtrooper
Marilyn Sokol as Bag Lady
Mel Brooks as himself, voices of Tom the Cat, Hilda the Pigeon and German Soldier
Ernie Sabella, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick's co-star from The Lion King, makes a brief appearance in the deleted song "You'll Find Your Happiness in Rio" as a drunk bar patron. Also, Jonathan Freeman who provided the voice for Jafar in Aladdin, makes a small appearance as a ticket taker.Fran Brill - Pigeon
Tyler Bunch - Pigeon
James Kroupa - Pigeon
Steve Whitmire - Pigeon
Peter Linz - Pigeon
Drew Massey - Pigeon
Joey Mazzarino - Pigeon
Martin P. Robinson - Pigeon
Matt Vogel - Puppeteer
Victor Yerrid - Tom the Cat, Hilda the Pigeon
- "Overture" - Orchestra
- "Opening Night" - Opening Nighters
- "We Can Do It" - Max and Leo
- "I Wanna Be a Producer" - Leo, Accountants, Mr. Marks and Dancing Chorus Girls
- "Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop" - Franz, Max, and Leo
- "Keep It Gay" - Roger, Carmen, Max, Leo, and Company
- "When You Got It, Flaunt It" - Ulla
- "Along Came Bialy" - Max and Little Old Ladies
- "That Face" - Leo and Ulla
- "Haben Sie gehört das Deutsche Band?" - Franz
- "You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night" - Roger, Carmen, Franz, Max, and Leo
- "Springtime for Hitler" - Soldiers, Girls, and Company
- "Heil Myself" - Roger and Company
- "Springtime for Hitler (Reprise)" - Roger, Ulla, and Company
- "You'll Find Your Happiness in Rio" - Samba Band
- "Betrayed" - Max
- "'Til Him" - Max, Leo, and Little Old Ladies
- "Prisoners of Love (Broadway)" - Prisoners, Ulla, and Company
- "Prisoners of Love (Leo and Max)" - Leo and Max
- "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" - Leo and Max
- "The Hop-Clop Goes On" - Franz
- "Goodbye!" - Leo, Max, Ulla, Franz, Roger, Carmen, Company, Mr. Marks, Accountants, Stormtroopers, Dancing Chorus Girls, and Mel Brooks
- "The King of Broadway" - Max (deleted scene on DVD)
The Producers received mixed or average reviews from critics. It holds a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 151 reviews. Based on 37 reviews on Metacritic, it holds a score of 52/100, indicating "mixed to average" reviews. A positive review from Betty Jo Tucker of Reeltalk said: "Outrageous musical numbers evoke most of the laughs in this movie funfest. Eat your heart out, Rockettes, because here comes a little old ladies’ chorus line (“Along Came Bialy”) to rival your success. Watch out, real-life producers, for an actor named Gary Beach (“Heil Myself”). Never, and I mean never, hire him if you want your play to flop! And stop spinning in your grave, Florenz Ziegfeld. Those “Springtime for Hitler and Germany” showgirls are all in good fun. Finally, congratulations to director Susan Stroman, for making this Broadway gem into a film that old-time movie musical fans like me can cheer about."
Nathan Rabin wrote: "Between the rough start and an ending that lingers too long, there's a solid hour or so of terrific entertainment that serves as both a giddy tribute to Broadway musicals and a parody thereof. Thirty-seven years after Brooks declared war on taste and propriety, 'The Producers' has lost its power to shock or offend, but it's retained its ability to amuse."
Roger Ebert cited difficulty in reviewing the film due to familiarity with the original 1968 film. However, he did state that the new version was "fun" and gave it three out of four stars. Said Ebert: "The new movie is a success, that I know. How much of a success, I cannot be sure."
In addition to these positive reviews, it was nominated for four Golden Globes (including nominations for actors Ferrell and Lane).
Most negative reviews suggested that the performances were tuned more for the theater rather than for film. Stephanie Zacharek observed: "'The Producers' is essentially a filmed version of a stage play, in which none of the characters' expressions or line readings have been scaled down to make sense on-screen. Every gesture is played out as if the actors were 20 feet away in real life, which means that, by the time the performers are magnified on the big screen, they're practically sitting in your lap. The effect is something like watching a 3-D IMAX film without the special glasses."
On February 28, 2016, a five minute and twenty-five second long short film serving as a sequel to The Producers, entitled Trumped, was released on Jimmy Kimmel Live, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their roles as Max Bialystock and Leopold "Leo" Bloom. The film follows Bialystock & Bloom having formed their own Political Consultants business, which has since fallen on hard times. Bloom realise that under the right circumstances more money can be made from a losing candidate than from a winner. The choose Donald Trump as a candidate, only for him to win the election.