"Brooks and Kane"
Directed by Mike Nichols
Written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morriso
Choreography by Adam Shankman
Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt
James Marsden as Arty Brooks
John Tartaglia as Pat Kane
Curtis Holbrook as Corey Mattock
Amanda Seyfried as Becky Yank
Sara Ramirez as Molly Adams
Tagline: "The light has never seemed dimmer than when it’s over Hollywood"
Synopsis: History always has its way of making greatness disappear when the press isn’t right. Oh the big names that have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Does anyone remember the classic team of Nixt and Cobb doing their famous corn cob routine? Or what about the amazing feats of strength displayed by Ivan Rusk’s legendary buttocks? No, you don’t remember them. Unfortunate as these stories are, however, they fail to compare to the fate of Hollywood’s greatest comedy/musical duo: Pat Brooks and Arty Kane.
The story of Brooks and Kane takes place back in the 50’s, when music was softer, gas was cheaper and communism was the most deadly form of cancer in America. The duo seemed like your average musical/acting team, smiling often and promoting products that are condemnable by our standards. Of course, not everything was G-rated bliss. Brooks, who wowed audiences with vocal talents like his whistling in “Betty’s Bongos”, used vast charisma to hide his hedonistic womanizing he would pursue whenever he was not busy. Kane, whose one man band kept audiences enticed in “Florida!”, would spend most of his time cussing in frustration whenever Brooks wouldn’t yield to his overbearing perfectionism. Did these traits cause problems between the two? Obviously! Everyone back then remembered how real Kane’s pantomimed punch appeared when they did “Chris Cross”. And everyone remembered how Brooks used his most frequent (and much younger) mistress Becky to politely demean Kane’s integrity to the public. Yet, every time they stepped in front of the screen to shoot their newest musical, they blew people away with their quality and showmanship.
That is, until the turn of the decade. When the 60’s arrived, something began to stink in the air. That foul, familiar smell that occurred each time a new generation began: fresh talent! That talent’s name was Corey Mattock and the two didn’t know it, but he was going to change entertainment for years to come. He had a new style that the public considered “revolutionary”, “innovative” and, the most shocking, “gritty”. Corey had all the tricks up his sleeve too. His aunt Molly, an influential PR agent, had access to all the most popular press outlets. Soon, Corey’s mug was available everywhere the public wanted to see it. Brooks and Kane were undaunted by this though. While they didn’t know who this kid was, they realized the threat to both of their careers. Thus the seeds of competition were sown and neither side was going to rest until one of them was buried. No star was safe, no movie was too far and no one was going to want to hear the end of it.
“Double Time!”- Ensemble
“Just Like Chocolate”- Marsden, Tartaglia
“My Ladies”- Marsden, Seyfried, Ladies
“Excuse The Interruption”-Holbrook, Ramirez
“Corey’s Song”- Holbrook
“The Mandatory Montage”- Marsden, Tartaglia, Holbrook, Ramirez
“Big Night at the Theatre”- Marsden, Tartaglia, Holbrook
“Double Time Reprise”- Marsden, Tartaglia, Ensemble
What the Press would say:
Musical theater is a hard genre to sell these days, but, as this film points out, it’s only because the public has made it that way. “Brooks and Kane”, Mike Nichols’s newest film, is a brilliant homage to the musicals of old as well as a riveting satire of the evolution of entertainment and the natural fear of change. With equal measures of wit and life, with a bit humor mixed together, “Brooks and Kane” serves as a reminder of what made the classics musicals classic.
The story of the musical, penned by Broadway writers O’Donnell and Meehan, is a very well written, with plenty wittily subtle gags and observations scattered throughout. While it does explore some familiar themes of Hollywood power struggles, the script has a lot more depth to it when considering what era the film is. Perhaps the strongest point that the story makes is the basic fact that man in general is afraid of change. As Brooks and Kane continue to oppose the new style Corey Mattock brings to the screen, they are labeled the bad guys for not giving him a chance to express himself. The film doesn’t demonize their resilience though. Throughout the film, it becomes very clear that the two are just acting this way because they are human. It’s a simple truth that makes the story more credible and enjoyable.
The effort put into this production is amazing. From the opening number, complete with some of the most impressive dancing seen in a recent musical, the audience knows that this will be something unique. Unlike many musicals that try to use lots of editing and disorientating images to please an audience, “Brooks and Kane” employs the techniques that worked for the old films. There is less editing present in the musical numbers, allowing the actors to perform more convincing and impressive choreography so the audience doesn’t consider it fake. The music contains none of the new age tweaks recent theater has given it, like electronic beats or heavy metal guitars. It is all classic oldie tunes, with simple, catchy beats and charming lyrics courtesy of Broadway songwriters Lisa Lambert and Greg Morriso of “The Drowsy Chaperone” fame. The most impressive feat, however, is how similar to the old 50’s movies this film looks like. The film quality is grainy yet expertly shot, the costumes are all appropriate for the era and the sound design will make you feel like you are back in the 50’s, even if you didn’t live in that time.
What gives the film its life, however, is the fantastic directing and acting displayed. Mike Nichols, bringing the musical expertise he’s used on Broadway to the stage, does an amazing job as he lets each scene flow smoothly together and Shankman’s choreography flowing. Nichol’s handling of the comedic elements of the film is superb as well, as all the dialogue is delivered expertly and none of the jokes are too overt or overplayed longer than they should. Nichols couldn’t possibly have found better actors for the title roles than Marsden and Tartaglia. They are pretty much the embodiment of the musical stars of old, with charisma and talent to match. Both of them are equal part Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, while besting each of them in different ways. Also true to the stars of old, their dancing is stunning, with so much life in their steps that you may be tempted to dance with them. They both show off their acting chops too, as they make their strengths and flaws more believable with the subtlety of their non-singing performance.
“Brooks and Kane” doesn’t try to be a great musical. It IS a great musical and it should not be ignored because it looks like an old film.
Best Actor (James Marsden)
Best Actor (John Tartaglia)
Best Original Screenplay (Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan)
Best Cinematography (Stephen Goldblatt)
Best Costume Design
Best Sound Design
Best Original Score (Lisa Lambert and Greg Morriso)
Best Original Song (Any of them)