Spaceballs (1987)
Spaceballs (1987)

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: June 24th, 1987 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Mel Brooks Actors: Mel Brooks, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, John Candy, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Michael Winslow, Joan Rivers

 


 

“O

nce upon a time warp …” begins “Spaceballs,” which proceeds to lampoon virtually every component of the “Star Wars” films with striking hilarity. From the iconic crawl text to the thunderous music to the ominous opening sequence (featuring a nonsensically prodigious spaceship sauntering through the galaxy – and the frame), this picture misses no opportunity to send up the most famous of space operas. It begins at Chapter Eleven, involving the evil inhabitants of planet Spaceball, which plots to steal the air from neighboring planet Druidia. And it’s Princess Vespa’s (Daphne Zuniga) wedding day on the unsuspecting, peaceful world.

Aboard cruiser Spaceball One, the imperious Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and right-hand man Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) plan to coerce the king of Druidia (Dick Van Patten) into lowering the air shield to steal the centuries-worth of precious atmosphere. But before he can go through with his malevolent scheme, he must track down Vespa for a useful hostage, who has some unexpected help from rebel Captain Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his copilot Barf (John Candy). Along the way, they encounter the golden-hued wizard Yogurt (Mel Brooks), who uses the magical power of the Schwartz, which will come in handy to combat Helmet and his minions.

Most of the principal cast of “Star Wars” receive goofy counterparts, specifically twisting around recognizable designs in ridiculous manners – from Pizza the Hutt (dripping with pepperonis) to Darth Vader’s helmet and voice (here oversized and clunky) to C-3P0’s ungainly stride (in the form of the metallic Dot Matrix, voiced by Joan Rivers) to Vespa’s cinnamon-bun hairstyle. While the premise remains equally corresponding, it’s simplified for the sake of its onslaught of sight gags and jokes. Nevertheless, the locations, starships, sound effects, alien denizens, costumes, makeup, screen wipes, and interactions are spot-on parodies, mustering laughs primarily from specific spoofing but also from unrelated, timely verbal jests. “What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?”

Some of the best moments dwell on writer/director/producer Mel Brooks’ signature brand of humor, from breaking the fourth wall to making references to other properties (including “Star Trek,” the ultimate offense for diehard fans, but also “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Alien” and “Planet of the Apes”) to racial jabs to self-aware wisecracks (chiefly concerning marketing and money, and manipulating the narrative itself). Of course, there’s also juvenile or crude humor (from silly slapstick to sexual antics), and so many one-liners that not all of them can possibly land effectively. Occasionally, the foolishness doesn’t work, stretching out skits that weren’t that amusing to begin with (or just being completely nonsensical, incongruous concepts). Yet for the most part, the film is an entertaining mockery of all things “Star Wars.” The conclusion wanders a touch, stretching out the pacing of the buffoonery, ending on something of a low point, but there are enough memorable comedic imitations to make “Spaceballs” a worthy entry in Brooks’ collection of genre pastiches.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10