To Be or Not to Be (1983)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Satire, Showbiz Comedy  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Costello

Mel Brooks' remake of the 1942 Lubitsch classic has amusing moments, but never remotely approaches the level of the original. The story, which follows the fate of a Polish theater troupe caught in the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, focusing in particular on its egomaniacal leading man Frederick Bronski (Mel Brooks), is largely faithful to its source. Although Brooks dials down from his usual level of raucous comedy, he still has his cast overplaying the delicate material, so that much of the humor, as well as the dramatic resonance of the original film, are absent. Nevertheless, it is a Mel Brooks film, and especially in his scenes with Anne Bancroft, there are enough laughs to keep one entertained. The film boasts an excellent cast, including Charles Durning, José Ferrer, Christopher Lloyd, and comedian Ronny Graham. To Be or Not to Be fared badly at the box office, the beginning of a difficult period for Brooks in the '80s.