SUB-GENRES: Comedy / Action / Adventure
DIRECTED BY: Mel Brooks
WRITTEN BY: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan, & Ronny Graham
PEW PEW: Spaceballs does a fine job of replicating the exciting action of the original Star Wars films. It’s surprisingly engaging for a comedy.
CAT FOOD: The film parodies some political and religious concepts and, thus, does have some fairly decent social commentary.
Now that I’ve completed commentary on all of the Star Wars feature films to be released thus far, I feel it necessary to say a brief word about a parody so beautifully close to its subject matter that I consider it an honorary part of the series itself. I’m talking about Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, of course.
After the populace of Planet Spaceball deplete their air supply, President Skroob sets his sights on the oxygen rich Planet Druidia, whose air supply is protected by a ridiculous shield that one needs a combination to open. Skroob sends his henchmen Dark Helmet and Colonel Sandurz to kidnap the Druish princess and ransom her back to the king in exchange for said combination.
After Princess Vespa flees her own unwanted wedding, space pirates Lone Starr and Barf are hired by King Roland to rescue her, for the reward of a million space bucks, which will take a price off their heads put there by vile gangster Pizza the Hutt. Yeah, man, this shit’s gold.
Seriously, unlike with any comedy film I’ve ever heard of, so much work was put into making Spaceballs look and feel like a Star Wars film. The aesthetic is there, the sounds are there, the music is there, the action is there… The budget was even impressively close to that of The Empire Strikes Back!
Like Star Wars, we are introduced to a mixed bag of heroes. Bill Pullman and John Candy play Lone Starr and Barf respectively. A play on Han Solo and Chewbacca, Lone Starr also carries elements of Luke Skywalker as well, as he trains to become a more powerful Schwarz wielder. Daphne Zuniga’s Princess Vespa is a hot-tempered prima donna take on Princess Leia, and her sidekick, Joan Rivers’ Dot Matrix, is a wise and over-protective female Threepio. Our heroes even visit the wise and worldly Yogurt, who is not only a master Schwarz wielder in the mold of Star Wars’ Yoda, but also the king of merchandising.
Our villains are a colourful bunch all their own. At the top of the chain is President Skroob, played by Mel Brooks himself, who serves as a greatly diminished Emperor Palpatine character. His henchman, Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmet, is a clear parody of Darth Vader, albeit with a hilariously small stature and exaggeratedly large helmet. George Wyner (in a role that is surely under-appreciated with all the other over-the-top personalities running about) plays Colonel Sandurz, Spaceballs’ answer to Star Wars’ Admirel Piett. The much smarter Sandurz often acts as Helmet’s logic counsel, but is more often than not told off and completely ignored.
The even greater thing about Spaceballs is, the film doesn’t just spoof Star Wars the entire time. Various elements also nod to Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and even Alien (with a surprise appearance by one of the stars of the original film!).
With sharp and creative humour that lets up only periodically, and a class budget, Spaceballs is a first rate comedy, and a very entertaining sci-fi adventure film in its own right. This one should be on the watch list for any fans of Star Wars, space opera, and sci-fi adventure in general.
[WARNING: For heaven’s sake, DO NOT look into the truly terrible spin-off Spaceballs: The Animated Series — no matter how awesome you think it’s going to be, DO NOT SUBJECT YOURSELF TO IT.]