Spaceballs is not Mel Brooks’s best movie; it doesn’t stack up to his 1973 classics, Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles or his Academy Award winning first film, The Producers. However, unlike those movies that parody musical theater, the goth horror of James Whales, and westerns, Spaceballs lives on because of the film it parodies: Star Wars. George Lucas’s epic franchise, which he’s revived time and again for each new generation of children, is so popular, that any kid who picks up Spaceballs immediately knows what the movie is making fun of. This is one of the main reason that Spaceballs has maintained popularity for 25 years, while such other great Brooks movies like High Anxiety (his tribute to Hitchcock) and To Be or Not to Be (which he wrote and produced) are often forgotten.
While Spaceballs may not live up to the quality of Brooks’s earlier films, it’s still pretty funny. Bill Pullman and Daphne Zuniga have a nice chemistry as star-crossed lovers (pun intended) and play up the opposites attract story nicely. Zuniga’s Princess Vespa fleeing her arranged marriage and Pullman’s space mercenary, Lone Starr, tracking her down (to get a reward that will pay off the alien mob boss, Pizza the Hut), provide enough laughs to keep you interested. Unfortunately for the two of them (but to our great fortune) they share most of their scenes with the late John Candy. He made everything he did charming and funny. Even though dressed is a lame “Mog” costume (half man/half dog- he’s his own best friend!), Candy elicits laughs where there shouldn’t be any, adding life to Brooks’s dated comedy shtick.
The best scenes take place between Rick Moranis’s Dark Helmet and George Wyner’s Colonel Sanderz aboard the enormous villain ship, Spaceball One. In addition to plenty of juvenile ball blasting, these two get to have fun using military jokes that Brooks must have been saving for decades. My favorite is this one:
Dark Helmet: Who made that man a gunner?
Major: I did, sir!
Dark Helmet: (to Colonel Sanderz): Who is he?
Colonel Sanderz: He’s an Asshole, sir.
Dark Helmet: I know that! What’s his name?
Colonel Sanderz:: That is his name, sir. Asshole. Major Asshole.
The most inspired moment occurs when Dark Helmet and Colonel Sanderz, in trying to locate Lone Starr and the others, pull out the videotape of Spaceballs from a library of Mel Brooks movies. Fast forwarding through the movie (what we’ve seen so far) they stop on a shot of the two of them staring at themselves staring the TV monitor. Moranis and Wyner break the fourth wall and alternate between looking at the TV screen and the film camera, both confused, until Helmet exclaims, “What the hell am I looking at!?”
Spaceballs contains a lot of risqué humor, though nothing above the PG-13 mark. It also has plenty of “shits” and “hells” and one “fuck,” which is surprising, considering it received a PG rating. This may be another reason the film endures. Parents look at the rating, recall a goofy space adventure and let the kids watch it unsupervised. Budding teenagers get a kick out of all the swearing an juvenile humor. Still, it’s a harmless. Brooks has never been a mean humorist, which may explain why his type of films fell out of favor with the general public. This was the last of his good films. He followed up Spaceballs with the unbearable Life Stinks, then two Zucker-esque comedies, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Does anyone recall any of those films? Me neither. Yet Spaceballs lives on, and will continue to do so as long as kids keep dreaming of flying to the stars and George Lucas’s empire stays alive. In the best of all worlds, the kids who love Spaceballs will look into Brooks’s other films and laugh their asses off to Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.
Technically, the film has been given a nice polish for the Blu-ray release. The picture quality has been improved over previous releases and the sound is excellent. This 25th Anniversary release has plenty of bonus features, many of which have been included on previous home video releases. If anything, fans should listen to the commentary by Brooks. The director has a story for everything, even if it doesn’t relate to the movie!
The Spaceballs 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is available through Amazon.