Director: Mel Brooks
Release Date: 24 June 1987
Running Time: 96 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Editorís Rating: 2.5 out of 4 Stars in a galaxy very, very, very, very far away
Iíve talked about my love for Mel Brooks before, but this review is more about paying tribute to the passing of a great comic. In continuing a terrible trend this summer, Joan Rivers passed away this Thursday at the age of 81. For a season thatís normally attributed with happiness and fun, this summer might be remembered as the summer that comedy mourned. We lost three of our biggest performers across essentially all visual media - Elaine Stritch of the stage, Robin Williams of film, and now Joan Rivers, of television and new media.
Guh. That was the most depressing thing Iíll write all week. Quick, letís talk about something funny before we all turn into Eeyore.
So Spaceballs was Melís foray into the lampooning of the science fiction genre, among other things. Itís main storyline is an abridged telling Star Wars, centering around the clash of good and evil forces as they try to decide the fate of the galaxy. Scoundrel bounty hunter Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his Mog (John Candy) (half-man, half dogÖ heís his own best friend!) friend named Barf(olomew) have come across the princess of peace-loving planet Druidia, the prissy Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). Aided by her personal robotic assistant, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers), she has just escaped an unexplained MacGuffin of an arranged marriage, only to be cornered by the evil Spaceballs - an industrial, militaristic society that, in its excess, has used up their planet's entire air supply. And as it just so happens, planet Druidia has a 10,000 year supply of air behind their planet-wide air shield. So the flagship of the Spaceball armada, Spaceball 1, led by the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), under the orders of leader of planet Spaceball, President Skroob, commences a galaxy-wide chase for Princess Vespa who possesses the code to access her planetís air supply. Along the way, screwball antics ensue and the fourth wall is shot full of holes in what is probably the most self-aware comedy of the 80s.
Spaceballs doesnít seem to live up to the standards that were set in Brooksís previous movies, such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Now, those are pretty high standards to live up to, but thereís just something phoned in about this film that just doesnít seem to be as clever as his previous works. Not to say that the film is without its merits: Joan Rivers is hilarious and her delivery makes for a funny supporting character thatís more likeable than the robot sheís parodying. But letís be honest, being a better character than C-3PO is about as hard as being more appealing than Fran Drescherís laugh or Gilbert Gottfriedís voice.
That being said, sheís one of the most memorable parts of this movie, and more than makes up for the filmís shortcomings, like trying (desperately)to make Bill Pullman look like a bad boy and giving Daphne Zuniga the most unlikeable personality in a Mel Brooks movie just to fulfill a stereotype that puns on her planetís name (A DRU-ish Princess! Get it?!).
Despite my problems with the movie, this film still remains Brooksís most commercial success. Perhaps thatís due to the filmís PG rating, giving it a much wider audience, even though the movie drops the F-bomb towards its end. Honestly, itís really hard to figure out why this movie didnít warrant the new-at-the-time PG-13 rating that Steven Spielberg ushered in with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I'm imagining Mel Brooks entering into some back door deals with some bigwigs over at the MPAA, hopefully including blackmail.
So while Spaceballs may not be my cup of tea, it certainly has found an audience with millions of other people of varying opinions. Itís decent, but itís just not good enough for me to recommend over another of Brooksís pieces like Robin Hood: Men in Tights or History of the World, Part 1. Who knows, your opinions may vary.
**This movie is a part of my personal collection, and I was not reimbursed in any way for this review.**