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Spaceballs on DVD

by Johnny Bray
(Editor's note: this review comes courtesy of Screen D'or Magazine)

Not so long ago in a galaxy about as close as they come, a man named Mel Brooks liked to poke fun at movie genres. After successfully parodying horror, western, epic, and a few others, Brooks realized he had but one left: sci-fi.

That came in the form of Spaceballs, a parody of all things Star Wars and some things Star Trek. And while this isn’t a timeless, epic classic of cinema, it has a few things going for it.

President Skroob (Brooks) has managed to squander the air supply of planet Spaceball, and enlists Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) of planet Druidia and hold her for ransom against the combination to Druidia’s air supply. So King Roland (Dick Van Patten) enlists the help of Lonestar (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick, Barf (John Candy) to save the princess and the citizens of Druidia.

After a successful rescue, they crash land on a desolate planet frighteningly similar to Tatooine and encounter Yogurt (also Brooks), the keeper of the Schwartz. With Yogurt’s help, Lonestar, Barf and the princess should be able to thwart the evil Spaceballs and their sucking.

I was seven years old when I first saw Spaceballs upon its theatrical release, and I loved every second of it. It’s probably due to this fact that I still enjoy the movie, because when I examine it these days, I can’t help but notice it’s not really all that funny. Considering Star Wars is essentially a kids tale, it’s possible that Brooks also wanted to make a more kid-friendly film, which would explain the extra enjoyment I got at a younger age. This is supported by the fact that my dad claims to have never really enjoyed the film.

Spaceballs does have some classic moments (“I see your Schwartz is as big as mine!”), and a great cast to make the mediocre material that much better. Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet is pure genius, even if it means the guy has yet another nerdy role. The humor is about as subtle as that of the Wayans Brothers (but infinitely funnier), so if you don’t mind having jokes shoved down your throat you just may have a good time.

Spaceballs is the kind of movie that would be best left to fans of Mel Brooks, kids, people who saw the film as a kid, or just any fan of good old fashioned science fiction. And if it’s at all possible – try and save the car.

Originally released as a pretty bare-bones edition, the movie now gets its very own special edition. It’s presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital & dts 5.1 tracks with a bunch of extras. Audio and video are both fine, with good color and detail and surrounds. Both are a major improvement over the previous release, which looked and sounded crummy.

The audio commentary by Mel Brooks is the same as the previous version, and is unfortunately not that good. Not only is the comic mastermind not the least bit funny, but he doesn’t even really have anything interesting to say. “Spaceballs: The Documentary” runs half an hour and is typical of this sort of thing. It features interviews with the main players and takes us through the production of the film, from pre to post. It’s always fun to watch people reminisce on their experiences, but it’s even more fun to see what they look like almost 20 years later.

“In Conversation” is a 20-minute interview with Brooks and co-writer Thomas Meehan, in which they play off each other and talk about stuff. “John Candy: Comic Spirit” takes us through the career of everyone’s favorite Mog and makes us sad that he’s no longer with us. Finally, we get some outtakes, storyboard-to-film comparisons, spacequotes, a trivia game, costume & art galleries, and trailers.

Spaceballs, from MGM Home Entertainment
96 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital & dts 5.1
Starring Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga
Written by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan & Ronny Graham
Produced and directed by Mel Brooks


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