RETRO REVIEW – ‘Spaceballs’

Mel Brooks' spoof of the sci-fi genre is still quite enjoyable after 30 years!

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: June 24, 1987
DIRECTOR: Mel Brooks
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Nick McLean
WRITERS: Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, Thomas Meehan
MUSIC: John Morris

In 1987, writer and director Mel Brooks decided to finally take on the sci-fi space genre. Brooks has often said that he made the movie just because he hadn’t gone after “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” yet. In truth, the core reason for why he decided to spoof the science fiction genre was due to the fact that “Star Wars” created the idea of marketing as a way to sell the film and make more money off the merchandising.

This is the reason for my favorite scene in the movie where Yogurt (Mel Brooks), the film’s version of Yoda, tries to show off the merchandise for “Spaceballs”. The good news is that before Brooks started filming, he took the film’s script to George Lucas to ask permission to spoof “Star Wars”. Lucas liked the idea so much that he allowed Brooks to use Industrial Light and Magic in order to achieve the film’s special-effects.

The movie follows Captain Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his trusty sidekick Barf (John Candy) as they try to save Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) from the evil Spaceballs led by Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis). Planet Spaceball’s President Skroob has squandered the Spaceballs’ air and must extort the air from the king of Druidia by kidnapping his daughter, Vespa.

If you’ve seen other Mel Brooks films, then you know what you are going to get here. In fact, that is really my only real complaint with the film. Brooks does repeat himself quite a bit in the joke department when compared to other Brooks classics such as “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein”. That means that this film is not quite as fresh and you can tell that Brooks doesn’t quite admire the science fiction genre quite as much as he did the Westerns and monster movies he spoofed earlier.

Aside from that, though, the movie is still insanely funny for the most part. The highlights include scenes such as combing a desert with real combs, using the upcoming “Spaceballs” VHS tape to track down the heroes, and the aforementioned merchandise scene featuring Yogurt. The movie also contains great cameos from people such as Michael Winslow and John Hurt, with the latter doing a more humorous take of his chest bursting scene from “Alien”.

The movie is also a comedy that pretty much anyone of any age can watch and get a laughs out of it. Not only is there enough for the adults, but there is plenty of moments that even kids can enjoy. Like every other Mel Brooks film, you can either watch it by yourself or with your family and have a good time.

Brooks may have gotten a little tired by this point in his career, but that didn’t stop him from once again bringing the funny. 30 years after its release, “Spaceballs” still succeeds at entertaining generations and with new science-fiction films being made (including new “Star Wars”), this movie is now relevant to a whole new audience.

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