Mel Brooks is without a doubt the big-screen king of spoofs and satire. With classics such as the hilarious western spoof “Blazing Saddles” and his comedic take on classic Hollywood horror “Young Frankenstein,” Mel Brooks’ catalogue of films offers something for everyone. Often included in lists of Mel Brooks’ best films is his outstanding 1987 spoof of “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and science fiction more generally, “Spaceballs.” Featuring a stunning cast of comedic all-stars, “Spaceballs” has earned its spot as a comedic classic.
“Spaceballs” follows the adventures of intergalactic mercenary Lone Star (Bill Pullman) and his “mawg,” a half man half dog, co-pilot Barf (John Candy) onboard their space winnebago. This unlikely duo is solicited by the concerned king of the planet Druidia to rescue his daughter, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), from the clutches of planet Spaceball and the villainous Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis). If that plot description doesn’t already intrigue you, the endlessly quotable one liners and comedic references to pop culture will. Featuring a treasure trove of comedic characters such as the all-powerful Yogurt (Mel Brooks), the greedy Pizza the Hutt (Dom Deluise) and the conniving President Skroob (Mel Brooks), “Spaceballs” has plenty to make you laugh.
The colorful cast of characters would be nothing without a great comedic cast to deliver them. Any lesser comedic cast could have easily made this film forgettable and filled with poorly delivered absurd characters. With the likes of John Candy, Joan Rivers and Rick Moranis, “Spaceballs” manages to transform every insane and stupid character into a fan favorite. Each playing their role straight and believable, these wacky and absurd characters become real and lovable within this fantastical setting. John Candy’s Barf fills the same role as Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” franchise as the lovable furball and Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmet steals every scene he’s in as he desperately tries to make himself appear intimidating. Each actor works brilliantly with each other as the jokes land with each delivery.
Speaking of jokes, “Spaceballs” is chock full of them with hardly a dull one to remember. Fans of science fiction will find plenty of references and jokes made lovingly at their favorite franchises’ expense that will leave them endlessly laughing. Furthermore, casual viewers will find that none of these jokes go over their heads as Mel Brooks expertly manages to make the childish seem somehow intelligent. Perhaps my favorite comedic bit in the film pokes fun at the commercial juggernaut that is “Star Wars.” When our heroes meet the elusive Yogurt, they are first treated to a tour of his gift shop where he loudly exclaims “Merchandising, merchandising, merchandising!” Audiences are then walked through his stock of “Spaceballs” merchandise, such as a themed flamethrower. Jokes like these are commonplace as they poke fun at our beloved franchises without ever coming across as mean spirited or too obscure as to be confusing for casual fans.
From the minute the film starts to the moment the credits roll, “Spaceballs” is a laugh a minute spectacle. Featuring a masterclass in comedic acting, a common trait in Mel Brooks’ films, the movie also features a well written and executed narrative in its own writing. Borrowing heavily from the likes of “Star Wars,” “Spaceballs” crafts its own compelling story executed with comedic precision. Despite the wackiness of its characters or the childish nature of some of its jokes, “Spaceballs” doesn’t come across as nonsensical or so absurd as to dismiss the possibility of rewatchability. Fans know that this film demands a yearly rewatch as the jokes are iconic and somehow manage to never get old. So long as science fiction and “Star Wars” continue to remain in popular culture, so will “Spaceballs.”