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Over the last few years been an obvious concerted effort on the part of many of the major motion picture studios in their home theater distribution subsidiaries. New releases favorite films have been remastered and either given an initial high definition release or a fresh Blu-ray edition. Among the latest batch I have received for review is particularly relevant to a major spike the socially important ‘trending list’. ‘Spaceballs’, originally released in 1987 as part of the widely popular and acclaimed body of work one of the best cinematic comedy, Mel Brooks. Mr. Brooks enjoyed take popular genres twisting them to his favorite humorous technique of reductio ad absurdum, bringing an aspect of the subject matter beyond normal lampooning to an off-the-wall ridiculous presentation. The purpose of ‘Spaceballs’ is to provide Mr. Brooks a platform focus is keenly perceptive eye to one of the uncontested most influential trilogies of movies ever created. By 1987 all three of what now known as the original trilogy for ‘Star Wars’ had been concluded and unbeknownst to the fans of the time they would have to wait for another generation to pass before it’s resurrection. Now, fans are once again gathering and avid anticipation for yet another chapter in this genre defining saga. Unless you have been in a coma or just returned from a lengthy abduction by probe obsessed extraterrestrials there has been a new addition to the Star Wars franchise, ‘Episode VII: The Force Awakens’. This Blu-ray release of the Mel Brooks classic is perfectly timed. The digital release of the current six movie set has many fans revisiting the current state of the story. What is important about this film is that it highlights many of the aspects of the original series that became fodder fan jokes and monologues of late-night comedians.

The other current trend that greatly effect home entertainment have converged providing some incentive to revisit some of the great films of the past as well as a number of our guilty pleasure favorites; ’Spaceballs’. It resides nicely in the intersection of the movement to revive and reboot franchises that most fans considered concluded and the studios remastering selections of their catalogs into high definition for Blu-ray release. There are currently several Blu-ray editions of the film including one in a set encompassing the fan favorite films by Mel Brooks. Personally, I preferred the box set over the HD versions of just this movie. After all with that collector’s edition you also receive eight additional films from this master off cinematic humor. Having recently received the latest Blu-ray Mel Brooks collection it seemed to be the ideal time to revisit tis flawed but highly enjoyable flick.

Number of liberties had been taken from the mentor storyline. In a statement that can certainly not be considered a spoiler at this point, the original movie began in medias res of rebellion against the draconian Empire. To streamline the numerous plot points necessary in the original Brooks had to create a succinct narrative that could be used introduce the requisite characters and necessary situations to construct the basis for the satire. This story begins on the planet ‘Spaceball’ led by President Skroob (Mel Brooks), who was so incompetent as an administrator he has somehow squandered all the breathable air of the planet. As is typical not only with this brand of humor but as a trademark for a Mel Brooks film such non sequiturs are inevitable and for devotees of his oeuvre one of their best features. In order to keep the population from suffocating, the president hatches a scheme. He plans on stealing the atmosphere of nearby planet Druidia. To accomplish this requires kidnapping the Royal Princess, Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), daughter of King Roland (Dick Van Patten). The abduction was to take place during the Royal wedding to the narcoleptic Prince Valium (JM J. Bullock). For novices to the films of this master comedian takes particular joy in naming his characters typically using them in descriptive fashions personality. Just before the ceremony was to start the Princess panics, running away. She flees to her customized Mercedes-Benz speedster and playing the planet only bringing with her ‘Droid of Honor, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers). Younger viewers may have to Google the term, dot matrix in order to fully appreciate the joke. The planets imposing space cruiser, ‘Spaceball-1 commanded by Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner is immediately dispatch to retrieve the runaway bride.

Desperate for his daughter’s safety, King Roland arias the space mercenary, Lone Star (Bill Pullman) and his faithful companion, Barf (John Candy).Barf is the hybrid creature, a mawg (half-man, half-dog. Lone Star has no choice but to accept the mission since he is in serious that the intergalactic gangster, Pizza the Hut (voiced by Dom DeLuise). The adventurous pair launches into space to retrieve the Princess and Lone Star’s craft the Eagle Five, a spacefaring Winnebago. Escaping into hyperspace before the cruiser can catch up. As it turns out Colonel Sandurz is only the titular head of the massive ship. The indisputable one in charge is none other than the completely evil, Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis). Mr. Moranis is a well-seasoned comedian for both film and television can take his extensive career and sketch comedy and apply it to creating outrageous characters. His interpretation of Darth Vader as stilted through the one the string mind of Mel Brooks covers a diminutive form of this comedian with an extremely exaggerated version of the iconic helmet of the Sith Lord. It extends well down the center of his body in the most ridiculous way possible. In order to catch up with his prey, now in a flying Winnebago, Dark Helmet orders the ship’s helmsman to go ludicrous speed against the Colonel’s advice. The ship is so uncontrollable they overshoot their market losing the Princess.

Winnebago crash lands on a desert planet, Vega, where they make their way to the mouth of the cave which is occupied by the diminutive ancient figure of Yogurt (Mel Brooks), the pointy ears shaman and wise man. There Yogurt decides to teach Lone Star the ancient ways of the ‘Schwartz’. The significant portion of which is the all-important merchandising of the movie. A wall opens up to reveal a large group of workers preparing every imaginable toy, lunchbox, sweatshirt emblazoned with the movies logo possible. Unable to relocate the Winnebago, Dark Helmet has to resort to drastic measures to relocate. Breaking the fourth wall, helmet takes out a VHS copy of the movie fast forwarding to the point where they lost their targets. Remember kids, this movie was a decade before DVDs were invented. Followed by a considerable amount about right ridiculous antics including robbing an atmosphere of a planet by transforming his spaceship into a giant made with a vacuum cleaner, the story continues to offer up one famous point of the saga after another knocking them over with numerous efficiency.

Undoubtedly this is not one of the best examples of Mel Brooks work, but even a less than ideal example of his skills fall exceeds the vast majority of all the comedic filmmakers. One reason this movie is perceived as falling short is that instead of parodying a broader genre its source material were three very specific films. Brooks does much better when the storyline is not restricted allowed to expand. For example, in ‘Young Frankenstein’ the film combined elements of the core films of Universal Pictures Frankenstein films of the 1930s. Similarly, ‘Blazing Saddles’ was able to capture the 50s fascination with Westerns. In this film however, it just felt as if Mr. Brooks was straining to make fun of a trilogy of movies that had transcendent popularity to become a pop-culture icon that managed to change the way out of will forever be filmed. Still, even with that criticism and the numerous outdated references as pointed out, the fundamental comedy still remains intact. Without the timeless quality of the payroll films cited above, this movie might rank below them but it is still something that is consistently entertaining and demands to be part of any collection.

Posted 04/25/2015            Posted 05/20/2016

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