Dir: Mel Brooks, 1987
Mel Brooks was always the Prince of Parody. With successful hits like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety under his belt, Brooks reigned supreme at fun poking.
But then, something happened. Three guys from Milwaukee came along and stole his well earned title, straight from under his nose. They were David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker and they’d just blown cinema apart with their smash hit movie, Airplane!.
The rules of the game had changed and Brooks had to adapt if he wanted to continue playing.
President Skroob (Mel Brooks) of Planet Spaceball, kidnaps Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) from the Planet Druidia and holds her to ransom for the planet’s supply of air.
King Roland (Dick Van Patten) of Druidia, enlists the help of rogue space cowboy, Lone Star (Bill Pullman) and his half man/half dog hybrid, Barf (John Candy) to rescue the Princess from Spaceball 1, a gigantic spaceship headed by Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis).
To keep up with the changing tastes of cinema goers, Brooks had to change tact. The subtlety of his previous films went out the window and made way for a more zany and absurd style, much in the same vein as the Milwaukee guys.
Spaceballs is fairly successful, for the most part. Brooks’s signature raunchy humour is on display and there are some brilliantly funny gags and homages to other science fiction films (John Hurt recreating his infamous scene from Alien, and then moaning “oh, no. Not again?!”, is a real highlight).
However, some of the humour is a little too silly and immature to laugh at and is cringeworthy. A Scottish character called Snotty is one such example.
The subtleties found in his earlier films was rather clever but, here, it’s unintelligent and blunt.
But the positives outweigh the negatives and there are many of them.
Primarily a spoof of Star Wars, the film parodies anything that was cultural at the time. From the second in command Colonel Sanders (“chicken?”) to video piracy, Brooks goes full throttle, throwing anything he can think of into the mix.
Brooks often goes for cheap laughs. Instead of Jabba the Hut, we have Pizza the Hut. Several Spaceballs are ordered to comb the desert so we see them, literally, combing the desert with giant fine toothed combs. Yoda becomes Yogurt (pronounced the American way, “yo-gurt”).
Using his Jewish heritage as comic foil, the director changes the Jedi power known as The Force to The Schwartz.
As you can see, none of it is, exactly, inspired but it’s still funny.
Ultimately, Spaceballs is a jovial hour and a half that will delight the viewer and provide you with plenty of laughs.
A fun night’s entertainment.