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Friday, 28 October 2016

Retro Review: Spaceballs (1987)

Cast: Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, John Hurt, Daphne Zuniga
Genre: Science Fiction Parody 
U.S Box Office Gross: over $38 million

Plot: In a distant galaxy, planet Spaceball has depleted its air supply, leaving its citizens reliant on a product called ''Perri-Air''. In desperation, Spaceball's leader president Skroob orders the evil Dark Helmet to kidnap Princess Vespa of oxygen rich, Druidia and hold her hostage in exchange for air. But help arrives for the Princess in the form of renegade space pilot, Lone Starr and his half- man, half-dog partner, Barf 

'Probably The Best (& Gold Standard) Sci-Fi Spoof Movie, Ever'

I am not a huge Star Wars fan, but I did enjoy episodes IV, V The Empire Strikes Back & VI Return of the Jedi, as well as last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. & yet if I had to choose between the two, I'd opt for Star Wars over Star Trek because I like the characters more and as it's more futuristic with the robots and such. 10 years after the original Star Wars was unleashed onto audiences by George Lucas, comic Mel Brooks famed for Spaghetti Western spoof, Blazing Saddles turned his attentions to spoofing another movie genre or be it more specifically movie franchise in Star Wars with Spaceballs

Critically mauled at the time of its release in 1987, it has since gone on to become a cult movie, thanks to reruns on cable TV and good video and DVD sales.  

The humour in Spaceballs is supposedly much more grounded in silliness, rather than laugh out loud funny hysterics and clearly ridicules and mocks characters like Star Wars' Chewbacca, who in this film is a half man and half dog played by the late John Candy named Barf. Mel Brooks appears in a supporting role as Yogurt - who is a mickey take on Yoda and as another character in the film, as is Lord Dark Helmet whose massive helmet is bigger than tiny Rick Moranis's head (!), gangster Pizza The Hutt, whose name is an obvious play on Jabba The Hut (and who looks extremely grotesque and disgusting - and yet it was hilarious too) and a female C3P0 android with a fake wig resembling Joan Rivers, and of whom is coincidentally enough voiced by Joan Rivers herself. Sadly, both she and John Candy are no longer with us; but during the 1980s, they were 2 relatively well-known faces on the comedy circuit and for Candy comedy movie world. Bill Pullman follows up his comedic turn in Ruthless People the year before by playing dual roles as his character, Lonestarr. He is a mesh of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. I laughed when there was a character named Colonel Sanders after the KFC guy in this film - though it would have been even funnier had he looked like him!

Rick Moranis is absolute gold as the bumbling antagonist, Lord Dark Helmet - the so-called clumsier version of Darth Vader: he was much, much funnier in this film than he was in Ghostbusters and in the not very good Club Paradise. Thanks to Mel Brooks, he made that character to be still evil and side-splitting at the same time and with that also, Moranis gave a much more substantial performance. He was also a bit of a dork and would foul-up numerous times. 

Like all comedy movies, this isn't supposed to be a deep and profound movie, but rather one that is highly entertaining, amusing and fun where you can sit back and enjoy it. Spaceballs works and the reason why it struck a chord with audiences is because the film picked the right movie to spoof from. & what better movie for that than Star Wars, which is one of the biggest and most successful movie franchises of all-time. It has references, scenes, themes and elements from it that in turn would make for great comedy. Had Mel Brooks chose a more obscure film or movie genre to base a comedy around, then the characters and the movie's thematic nods and references (more so than Spaceballs's humour and jokes) wouldn't resonate well with audiences. Spaceballs is more of a parody and spoof, rather than a satire. Speaking of the humour and jokes, they are terrific and put a smile on your face. 

With funny and witty scenes especially the Spaceballs merchandising segment and lines with Lord Dark Helmet going: ''yogurt, yogurt, I hate yogurt!'' referring to the character, Yogurt and concludes with the funny punchline, ''even with Strawberries!'', and parodying other movies such as Alien with the alien popping out of John Hurt's stomach and bursting into song, Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, Spaceballs is a comedy relying on old school jokes and gags, without being too vulgar (although there is some mild language that is inappropriate for children). The clash between Lord Dark Helmet and Lone Starr, Lord Dark Helmet flying and sent crashing and his helmet is all bent and out of shape are some of the highlights from Spaceballs that have aged very well and still hold up. The special effects are very good too, in fact, they are so impressive the effects crew really made it look as authentic and close to the actual Star Wars movies themselves. & for that, that is one of the many good signs to come out of this great Star Wars parody comedy.

Final Verdict:

Spaceballs is classic old school '80s comedy and a comedy spoof that knows how to do parodies right, due to the genius of Mel Brooks. His take on Star Wars is amusing, farcical and dumbed down silly and in a good way that is ingeniously crafted as such that will appeal to fans of the franchise and non-fans alike, who enjoy comedy movies. 

Yes, it helps if you enjoy Star Wars or science fiction movies in general and if you don't, you still might find something to revel in Spaceballs. Amusing and at times witty dialogue, puns and one-liners, funny and light-hearted scenes and slapstick, great performances by the cast and humour and gags that people can easily take a shine to, this is by far Mel Brooks finest comedy achievement since Blazing Saddles. That, and it is probably the definitive and best sci-fi comedy spoof, with Galaxy Quest coming in second for me. 

Spaceballs is a Sci-fi parody comedy, whose humour and cult status will live on in memory. 


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