Film Review: Spaceballs
In 1987, Mel Brooks released. Spaceballs. Starring Bill Pullman, John Candy, Daphne Zuniga, Joan Rivers, Rick Moranis, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Jim J. Bullock and John Hurt, with cameos by Brooks, Michael Winslow and Dom DeLuise, the film grossed $38.1 million at the box office. The film won the Stinker Award for Worst Picture.
When Princess Vespa flees an intended marriage to the only eligible bachelor prince, she and her robot servant Dot Matrix are seized by the Spaceballs, led by Dark Helmet and President Skroob. They plan to hold her hostage in exchange for Vespa’s planet’s oxygen and all hope lies within two mercenaries: Lone Star and Barf the Mawg.
Showcasing Brooks' trademark bizarre sense of humor, Spaceballs is a great film. Like with most of his films, this one takes a hammer to the fourth wall. One scene is particularly notable as Dark Helmet knows he's in a movie, but shows disbelief that he'd be able to watch the film while it's filming when Col. Sandurz suggests doing so in order to locate the heroes. The film plays out with straight humor along with the fourth wall humor that includes Dark Helmet and Sandurz watching themselves watch the movie, complete with the former looking directly at the camera. The fourth wall breaking goes even further to the point of the characters' stunt doubles getting captured during a chase and a cameraman getting killed during the fight between Lone Star and Dark Helmet. That's not even going into the character of Yogurt who breaks the fourth wall so much by selling merchandise for the movie, stating that's where the real money is made, and hoping for a sequel as his last line in the film.
However, fourth wall breaking is just one method the film does to evoke laughs, with another being the kind of jokes set up early on, only to have their full potential later. It does those well too, such as the preparation for Ludacris Speed, where Col. Sandurz calls for a cancellation of the three-ring circus and closing the zoo. When the ship is about to self-destruct, the evacuating crowd includes several circus performers and a bear, of which President Skroob makes quite angry. There is another one set up during Dark Helmet looking at now in the movie and sifting through video tapes that include an absurd amount of Rocky sequels with it being revealed later on that the latest film is Rocky 5,000.
All of the humorous moments combine well with the characters. For one, there’s all the Spaceballs, who are stupid in their own special ways, like Lord Helmet’s literal-mindedness, thinking that combing the desert means to actually use combs on the sand. But Lord Helmet also seems to be the universe’s chew toy, him flying into the control panel of Spaceball-One and found playing with dolls (with a storyline that revolves around Vespa falling in love with him, no less) being two such examples. It makes the whole situation hilarious as the main villain is made out to be the least threatening obstacle, though he does have his moments, like using underhanded tactics when fighting Lone Star, where he was holding his own quite well though. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Lone Star who is a combination of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. He’s a genuinely nice guy and the only reason he’s got a rough side is because of all the debt he’s in. That nice side does come out every now and then though, including where he doesn’t take the reward money and only what he needs. It shows that he does sometimes choose altruism, even when he’s up against a wall in debt. But it helps when the debtor eats himself.
It's fascinating in how these humorous moments, both fourth-wall breaking and flat out silly alike, combined with good characters really makes the film as great as it is. Without them, the film would be generic and dull. that's what Brooks excels at though: making a generic story into a fun cinematic experience through his own special brand of humor and characters.
Spaeballs the Rating
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