Studio:MGM Year: 1987 Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga, Bill Pullman, George Wyner, Dick Van Patten, Michael Winslow, Joan Rivers, Lorene Yarnell, Ronny Graham, JM J. Bullock, John Hurt, Sal Viscuso, Stephen Tobolowsky, Leslie Bevis, Rudy De Luca Director: Mel Brooks Release Date: August 07, 2012 Rating: PG for (brief language) Run Time: 01h:36m:12s Genre(s): comedy
"Funny, she doesn't look Druish." - Barf (John Candy)
As a sci-fi parody this uneven comedy isn't Mel Brooks' finest work, but that's not to say it is not without its pleasantly juvenile merits. Sadly, however, this anniversary packaging doesn't offer much not already presented in the 2009 BD release, making it seem somewhat pointless.
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Grade: B-
Mel Brooks generally operates under the quantity-over-quality approach to comedy, where the law of averages dictates that the funny has to stick more often than not. And with Brooks it usually does. His best films (Young Frankenstein and/or The Producers, I'm looking at both of you) had much more of the elusive "substance" than some of his other works, but the one thing Brooks always brings to the table is the notion that he is not above going for the lowest, corniest gag in the barrel. There's a comedic nobility to that, because it is that absurdist simplicity that gives a Mel Brooks' comedy its distinctively childish appeal.
And I mean that as a sincere compliment, Mel.
Spaceballs is his 1987 lampooning of the then resurgent sci-fi genre, loosely centered around the Star Wars universe, but with equal ribbing of Star Trek, Alien, The Planet of the Apes as well as more traditional fare like Lawrence of Arabia and The Wizard of Oz. The fourth-wall breaking plot is appropriately silly - even by Brooks standards - centered on a plan by evil Planet Spaceballs to steal "10,000 years of fresh air" from kindly Planet Druidia, but that's all just window dressing for a plethora of goofy one-liners ("We all know Prince Valium is a pill") and sight gags (Brooks puts literal meaning to the phrase "jam the radar"). There's a fun stable of familiar characters: spunky Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), rouge-ish Winnebago-flying pilot for hire Lone Star (Bill Pullman), his half-dog/half-man partner Barf (John Candy) and the villainously inept Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis).
It's unfair to over analyze Spaceballs as something it's not or wasn't meant to be; this is really a collection of wokka-wokka style jokes duct-taped into a breezy 96 minute movie. It is not nearly as brazen or bold as Blazing Saddles, with writers Brooks, Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham opting for a less structured machine-gun approach to parodying the genre, one where moments of sudden spot-on absurdity (the gooey Pizza The Hut) play alongside elements that regularly fall flat (Joan Rivers dreadful phone-it-in voice work as robot Dot Matrix).
Not a completely great film, but it certainly is one that tries hard to get you to chuckle. Brooks succeeds often enough - or maybe it's just because he's ballsy enough to go for the big dumb gag like "combing the desert" - and though this may not have aged as well as something like Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs retains its own glorious stupidity rather well.
As a sidenote, watching this reminded me just how much I miss the presence of John Candy. He had such a special way of making a potentially one-note character like Barf watchable - even when he's not speaking - and consistently laugh-out-loud funny.
There doesn't appear to be anything new or remastered about this 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer when compared to the 2009 BD. It's the same transfer. With that said, it's generally solid, with well-saturated colors, and natural fleshtones. The sequences on Druidia or the desert scenes on the Tattoine-esque planet are probably the transfer's shining moments, sporting an abundance of brilliant blues, reds and greens. Overall the original film grain is retained, yet there's a strong sense of detail and edge delineation without suffering from being too overcompressed.
The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is also the same one found on the 2009 BD. For a late 1980s-era comedy it's a surprisingly active and aggressive mix, with plenty of rear channel cues and directional movement. Voice quality is crystal clear and the score from John Morris - a Brooks regular - gets noticeably pushed to the forefront, coming across big and beefy when needed. Audio is also available in English Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish DTS 5.1 and French DTS 5.1.
As a gag a pair of additional options are available in the Setup menu, allowing a brief snippet in either Mog or Dink.
All but one of the extras have been ported over from the 2009 release, so that isn't much here to get all anniversary-ized about. The lone new segment is Force Yourself! Spaceballs and the Skroobing of Sci-Fi (16m:43s 1080p), a 2012 interview with Brooks briefly discussing why he made the film, the writing and its reception.
The rest of the hand-me-down material from the previoius release consists of a rather lackluster Brooks commentary and a trio of lightweight mini-docs including Spaceballs: The Documentary (30m:03s 1:33:1) , In Conversation: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan (20m:29s 1.33:1) and John Candy: Comic Spirit (10m:01s 1.33:1). Also provided is the very-very-fast-forwarding option to Watch The Movie In Ludicrous Speed (:29s), stills galleries, two trailers, a set of Spaceballs film flubs and a Storyboard to Film Comparison (06m:40s).