Friday, 22 July 2016

Classic Movie Review: Spaceballs (1987)

Mel Brooks is undeniably the king of parody and his science fiction spoof is definitely his best. In it, he makes fun of everything from Stars Wars and Alien to Planet of the Apes and The Wizard of Oz. This was the first comedy I remember seeing and after all these years, the fourth wall breaking and excellent comedic performances still make me laugh.

Planet Spaceball is facing a crisis from the lack of available oxygen and President Skroob (Mel Brooks) has sent the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap Druish Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). His plan is to hold her hostage and get the ransom of Druidia's clean air supply. King Roland (Dick Van Patten) enlists the rogue Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) to rescue her and save the day. It's actually a very simple plot that even Dark Helmet thinks doesn't really need further explanation.

The lead for me with this movie is more the fact that it breaks the fourth wall so regularly rather than the actual parody element of it. There are constant references to the fact that they know they are in a movie, such as when the bad guys get the videotape of Spaceballs to find out where Lone Starr is or the accidental maiming of a crew member during the final "lightsaber" battle (they use rings). That's not to say that the references aren't funny at all, but in true Mel Brooks style, there's a lot of them. Being a Star Wars parody, the majority of the story revolves around desert planets and huge spaceships and even the Schwartz, it even has specific shots straight out of Star Wars (I mean A New Hope but I'm not going to call it that), but the movie also references so many others and not just sci-fi stuff. Brooks' own Jewish heritage is made fun of more here than in any of his other movies, and while they may have been funny 29 years ago, today only about half of them hit.

The movie's cast is undoubtedly made up of some of the funniest performers of the time. John Candy, Joan Rivers and Mel Brooks are all just fantastic comedy actors and they are just a joy to watch. Especially Brooks as he has the dual role of Skroob and Yogurt (no prizes for guessing who that's a parody of). Long before Bill Pullman was giving famous speeches on the Fourth of July, he was hilarious as a idiotic Han Solo and he really has great comedic chemistry with the legend that was John Candy, but then again Candy worked well with everyone. There are also three cameos that are unforgettable. Dom DeLuise was a veteran of TV and film and was well known for working with Burt Reynolds in many of his movies, but here he lends his voice to the terrific character of Pizza the Hutt. King of sound effects Michael Winslow returns with his magic voice and John Hurt reprises his role from Alien only to be killed all over again.

Spaceballs won't be winning any competitions for it's greatness, but it is a hilarious movie. It's script even led George Lucas to lend a hand with some of the special effects. Don't let his involvement turn you off though, this was before he'd made any bad decisions with his career. Aside from that, it's a great movie to go back and revisit like I did or look at for the first time if you are a fan of sci-fi because there's just so much to look out for.

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