Starring: Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Mel Brooks, Daphne Zuniga
Director: Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks has done it all. He’s turned Frankenstein’s monster into a song-and-dance man (“Young Frankenstein”), capitalized on the tight-wearing pansies of fairy tales (“Robin Hood: Men in Tights”), and even revealed the West for its extreme political incorrectness (“Blazing Saddles”). It seems only necessary that he take his well-earned jabs at the only film genre he has yet to spoof, science fiction, with the hit-and-miss comedy “Spaceballs: The Movie.” A film that gets just as many things right as it does wrong, “Spaceballs” certainly isn’t Brooks’ greatest work to date, but it is probably his most famous, thanks to an unorthodox cast of comic talent, an incredible cult following, and most importantly: Merchandising!
As told to us by a scrolling introduction in the vein of “Star Wars,” the planet Druidia is in danger of extinction under the hands of the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and the Spaceballs when they kidnap the King’s daughter Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) and hold her ransom in return for all of the planet’s clean air. In a desperate plea to save his daughter’s life, the King enlists the help of notorious space rouge Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his trusty half-man/half-dog sidekick Barf (John Candy) to travel across space, rescue the beautiful princess and preserve the planet’s precious air supply. The duo of unlikely heroes gladly accepts the task for the unheard-of amount of a million space bucks, a debt owed to the infamous gangster Pizza the Hut, but first they must seek out the mysterious Yogurt and learn the secrets behind the powers of The Schwartz before Dark Helmet destroys the galaxy.
The main premise of the film (both its plot and characters) is mostly influenced by George Lucas’s sci-fi trilogy “Star Wars,” but Brooks borrows from the likes of nearly every popular sci-fi franchise, including “Star Trek,” “Aliens,” “Planet of the Apes,” and even the not-so-science-fiction tale “The Wizard of Oz.” Brooks includes a good collection of quality gags throughout, but it’s Moranis’ crowd-pleasing re-creation of Darth Vader that ultimately wins in the film’s internal battle for absolute absurdity. Other notable performances include Bill Pullman’s early work as the Han Solo/Luke Skywalker hero character and John Candy as the hybrid wookie. With enough memorable characters and quotes to validate the film as a bona-fide cult classic, “Spaceballs” is one of the few screwball comedies that everyone must experience at least once. In Dark Helmet's paraphrased words, you’d be an asshole if you didn’t.
You’d also be an asshole if you didn’t pick up this two-disc special edition of the classic sci-fi spoof, digitally re-mastered and loaded with hours of special features. The film has been presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format and includes both a 5.1 DTS, as well as a Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound audio track. Also present is your usual selection of foreign language soundtracks, but Brooks has included a few extras of his own (including one completely in Dinkinese). The film appears on disc one, along with a full-length audio commentary by director/writer/star Mel Brooks and a fun little movie tie-in that allows you to watch the film at ludicrous speed.
The second disc of the set houses all of the special bonus content, and while it’s interesting to skim through a majority of the material, the omission of deleted scenes, blooper reels and more thorough featurettes on production design are sorely missed. What is included is the 1993 special, “Spaceballs: The Documentary,” a stripped-down behind-the-scenes look at the film from conception to production, and a 20-minute interview with two of the film’s writers entitled “In Conversation: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan.” The rest of the features are pretty boring, including a 10-minute homage to comedian John Candy, picture galleries, trailers and a fairly simple trivia game. Some of the best extras on the set are in the “Film Flubs” section, in which Brooks reveals six production mistakes that made their way into the film. Equally entertaining is the “Spaceballs” See n’ Say, in which you can select your favorite characters and listen to some of the film’s most memorable quotes. Overall, “Spaceballs” is a pretty solid re-release that should please most fans, but it’s still missing some necessary extras. If you haven’t already bought the barebones single-disc release, though, and you’re a fan of the film, you can still add this one to your list.