Movie Name: Spaceballs
Release Date(s): June 26, 1987
MPAA Rating: PG
The Spaceballs have depleted their planet of oxygen and now roam the galaxy searching for new sources. Their latest target is the peaceful planet of Druidia where King Roland (Dick Van Patten) is planning to marry off his daughter Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) to the last prince (Jim J. Bullock) who will take her. When Vespa runs away with her droid Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers), she must be saved from the Spaceballs by the rogue pilot Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick Barf (John Candy). With the Spaceballs hot on their trail and Druidia at risk, Lone Starr must learn to use the mysterious Schwartz to defeat Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and the forces he commands.
Written and directed by Mel Brooks (with additional writing by Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham), Spaceballs is a sci-fi fantasy comedy that spoofs popular genre picks like Star Wars, Star Trek, and other space films. The movie was released to average to mixed reviews and a small profit at the box office.
It is heresy for someone my age, but I don’t really think Spaceballs is that good. Most of my friends yucked it up at Spaceballs (and I even like the movies that it mocks), but I always found Spaceballs to be one of the less funny films by Mel Brooks and the point at which Mel Brooks began to lose credibility as a “comedy” director.
The movie’s plot is ok, but as many critics pointed out the story was too little too late. Star Wars had come and gone by the time that Spaceballs was released and a spoof simply told all the jokes that comedians had said for years about the film series…it didn’t really add anything new to the mix. The plot smartly added some other genre jokes instead of just focusing on Star Wars so you had some nice laughs involving Alien and Planet of the Apes (which were my favorite parts of the movie).
The cast is expansive with both John Candy and Rick Moranis being rather big stars at the time the movie was made. Bill Pullman wasn’t the first choice for the role, but he’s supposed to be a generic combination of Luke and Han and he succeeds at that. Likewise, Daphne Zuniga is rather bland at her role as the princess. The movie features a number of small roles like Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Michael Winslow, Jim J. Bullock, and Brooks regulars Dom DeLuise and Rudy De Luca. Brooks has a duel role by playing both President Skroob and the wise Yogurt. Poor John Hurt cannot catch a break either and suffers from more intestinal distress as the man in the diner having another Alien encounter.
Many of the movies jokes are visuals and some of these jokes work better than the writing jokes. The movie was rated PG and as a kid many of the jokes felt just dirty enough to feel you were getting away with something by watching it. Jokes about the Schwartz and random sex jokes combine with the visuals…plus, you do get the nice recreation of the end of Planet of the Apes with Megamaid.
Spaceballs isn’t all bad, but it also isn’t all that as some would have you believe. The movie is unbalanced (at best) and the humor is spotty. The cult following and cues within the movie indicated that Brooks wanted more for the film. This eventually led to an animated series with Spaceballs: The Animated Series airing in thirteen episodes from 2008 to 2009 on the Super Channel in Canada.