Spaceballs – Film Review
Title: Spaceballs (1987)
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi, Parody
Directed By: Mel Brooks
Starring: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Joan Rivers, Daphne Zuniga
Age Rating: PG
“Once upon a time warp, in a galaxy very, very, very, very, far away…”
Spaceballs, directed by notorious mocker Mel Brooks, is very much a divided-comedy; you’ll either really, really love it, or adamantly hate it. The film doesn’t hasn’t quite retained the legacy of such classics as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein in the eyes of fans, undoubtedly due to it being much more flawed than those two comedy-golds, but there’s definitely aspects of Spaceballs that are prevalently credible enough to praise.
Set in a galaxy very, very, very, very, far away, Spaceballs’ plot follows the crew of the Lone Starr, on a quest to stop Lord Dark Helmet’s plan to steal Planet Druidia’s air supply to benefit the declining planet Spaceball. The majority Spaceballs’ comedy revolves around absurd references to the original Star Wars trilogy, and for the most part, these scenes are effective. From the bizarre costumes to the silly sets, Spaceballs constantly refers to its fantasy/sci-fi source of material, with the hilariously uncanny trials of Lord Dark Helmet (this film’s version of Darth Vader, played by Rick Moranis) stealing the show with his preternatural presence as a villainous leader. Then there’s Barf, a half-human/half-dog (referred to as a “mog”)life-form played by the late John Candy, whose role is as always the likable, upbeat character with a good-heart, if a little bewilder. However, what sets Barf apart from John Candy’s other roles is that he is a much more self-aware character, particularly when he states “Funny, she doesn’t look Druish” in regards to Princess Vespa (who the audience would perceive as Jewish). It’s the small, witty moments of Spaceballs that really promote the charming element of this parody film.
Although a film can’t rely solely on one-liners and silly names, particularly if a Mel Brooks production – and this is where Spaceballs falls flat. Without revealing story elements, Spaceballs deviates from its complacent humor due to an overabundance of uninteresting characters; Joan Rivers (playing the C3PO knock-off, Dot Matrix), as wonderful as her comedic ability was, doesn’t showcase her talent to her full potential, Princess Vespa rarely conjures a laugh, despite her close-bond with two other cast-members, and as for Lone Starr… well, that eclipses essentially summarises his comedic impact.
Though this doesn’t mean to say that there’s no humorous-payoff for viewing Mel Brooks sci-fi spoof – particularly for Mel Brook’s character, President Skroob. The sleazy character of the film, referred to as Yogurt, is a delight for every moment he’s onscreen.
To conclude, Spaceballs isn’t a Blazing Saddles, nor is it a Young Frankenstein – but it stands-tall as its own individual adventure. There’s no denying that some will fail to recognise the appeal of the film, but for any parody-fan, and particularly sci-fi buffs, Spaceballs is well worth the trip.