An efficient look at a comedy legend
Built around a series of solo interviews with Brooks, a gaggle of sit-downs with many of his collaborators and colleagues and plenty of clips to round things out, the special covers his life from his childhood in Brooklyn through his success on Broadway, flipping between his professional and personal lives. Naturally, Brooks, who is in his usual tip-top comedy shape, is the highlight of the show, amusingly sparring with his interrogator and sharing to whatever level he's comfortable with, keeping his romantic relationships, especially the one he shared with his late wife Anne Bancroft, closer to the vest. Many of the stories and clips here are found in "The Incredible Mel Brooks" as well, but are distilled down to their pure essence here.
Though Brooks' interviews make up the bulk of the special, along with clips from his movies and TV appearances and old interview clips from those unavailable, like Gene Wilder and the late Madeline Kahn, there's no filler, as the roster that sits down to talk about Brooks, made up mainly of people who have worked with him, is all-star level, including Carl and Rob Reiner, Richard Lewis, Tracey Ullman, Neil Simon, Joan Rivers, David Steinberg, Barry Levinson, Steven Weber, Cloris Leachman, David Lynch, Bill Pullman, Susan Stroman and Matthew Broderick. When you've got such names paying tribute to you, you're doing OK, especially considering how great most of them are on-camera, helping keep the movie entertaining and lively when Brooks' irrepressible spirit isn't on the screen.
What's great about this film is the range of coverage it offers on Brooks, not just in terms of the subjects, but the tone. Delving into his style of comedy, you get to hear theories on why he's been so successful, discussion of his pioneering work with female comedians and a touch on his focus on Hitler, while a segment on his production company Brooksfilms shows his far lesser-known success as a producer, working with some big, critically-acclaimed movies. Yet, it's not all rainbows and lollipops, as there's some talk about his personal troubles and late-career failures, with frank discussion of what went wrong, right from the mouths of Brooks and his collaborators. It's interesting to hear him talk about how his techniques changed, which is a far better excuse than the idea that he "lost it." With the inclusion of the less sunshiney parts of his career, this presentation becomes less of a rah-rah piece and more of a great overview of one of our greatest comedians.
Though the film is delivered with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, you're only getting audio from the front of the room, with all the voices and the music sounding clearly defined and distortion-free. Since this is basically just simple interviews and old clips, there's nothing dynamic about the mix, and there are no issues of note.
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