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In this spoof of 'STAR WARS' and a handful of other sci-fi flicks from the 1970s and '80s, space-bum-for-hire Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his half-dog/half-man sidekick, Barf (John Candy), must rescue a spoiled Druish princess (Daphne Zuniga) from the evil Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) in time to pay off Pizza the Hut. With 'Spaceballs', director Mel Brooks is at it again, this time with a science-fiction parody with all the blue-screen special effects and weird makeup (though in this film, things are always slightly off-kilter and unpolished). Here, maverick space travelers set out to save the planet Druidia, which is being harassed by the Spaceballs, a sinister group attempting to pilfer Druidia's air resources. Among the many gags and jokes is a hilarious parody of a classic scene from 'Alien'. Mel Brooks himself makes one of his funniest acting appearances as Yogurt, a send-up of 'The Empire Strikes Back's Yoda.
For more about Spaceballs and the Spaceballs Blu-ray release, see Spaceballs Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, John Hurt
Director: Mel Brooks
» See full cast & crew
Spaceballs Blu-ray Review
Comb the desert, if you must, to find a copy of 'Spaceballs' on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 18, 2009
If you can read this, you don't need glasses.
Where have you gone, Mel Brooks? A Comedy-starved nation turns its lonely eyes to you. In an age where Comedy has taken a giant step in the wrong direction, where the greats like Candy, Murray, and Belushi, and films like Animal House, Ghostbusters, and Spaceballs seems as dead as a laptop dropped to the floor (ahem), movie fans can turn their lonely eyes to Blu-ray for the rejuvenation of old favorites that, when properly presented, can make even the oldest of motion pictures and styles of film long since departed seem new. Such is certainly the case with the release of Spaceballs, the quintessential parody film that spoofs cinema's most widely-known series, Star Wars. Starring writer and director Mel Brooks, the comedic genius with titles like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein to his credit, Spaceballs delivers across the entire spectrum, much of its story playing as completely ridiculous, even in the confines of a parody of a Science Fiction story, but therein lies the magic of the movie. The inane and over-the-top nature of the picture, which plays in stark contrast to something that is more subtly funny like Ghostbusters, never misses the mark, and the absurdity of the characters, situations, and dialogue deliver nonstop laughs at ludicrous speed.
The Spaceballs, a group of dangerous misfits led by President Skroob (Mel Brooks), have squandered their atmosphere and are no longer able to breathe good, clean, healthy air. Their plan is simple: steal the atmosphere from Druidia, a clean and comfortable planet that is about to play host to the wedding of the century between its very own Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) and the last remaining prince in the galaxy, the sleepy-eyed Prince Valium (Jim J. Bullock). When a case of cold feet spurs Vespa and her golden droid companion, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers), to flee the scene of the wedding in Vespa's outer-space capable Mercedes, she soon finds herself in the clutches of Spaceball One, a massive starship commanded by Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner). Meanwhile, the meandering renegade tandem of Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his half-man, half-dog companion Barf (John Candy) find themselves in need of one million spacebucks to pay off a debt to the vile gangster Pizza the Hut. When they receive a distress call from Vespa's father, King Roland (Dick Van Patten), Lone Starr and Barf agree to rescue the princess for the princely sum they need to get Pizza off their back. The rescue attempt brings more trouble than the pair could have imagined as they find themselves on the run from the Spaceballs, causing them to land on a planet where they encounter the all-knowing Yogurt (also Brooks), a money and merchandising-obsessed Master of Schwartz that will lead Lone Starr towards his destiny.
Spaceballs didn't accidentally become the best Parody picture of all-time. Ambitiously tackling the end-all, be-all of movie franchises, Star Wars, Spaceballs came with high expectations to get it right, and not only did it deliver, but it also set a new standard for laughs in the context of the Parody, matching and in some ways surpassing Brooks' own best efforts of years past. Spaceballs didn't just retell Star Wars in a humorous fashion; instead, it took some of the important themes, characters, and situations and inserted them into a story that plays more like a classic fairy tale of a damsel in distress and her rescue by a knight in shining Winnebago than it does just a series of unrelated vignettes strung around a loosely-developed plot. Spaceballs succeeds because most of the humor would work even in a galaxy where Star Wars didn't exist. George Lucas' then-trio of pictures certainly serve as the primary influence for the look of Spaceballs, and Brooks' picture derives some of its humor straight from those movies, but most everything works well enough on its own merits that audiences aren't consistently hit over the head with Star Wars references. Even when they are, it is Spaceballs rather than Star Wars that remains at the forefront of the experience, Brooks' picture never overshadowed by Lucas' but instead retaining a firm grasp on its own identity. Spaceballs takes the complete opposite approach to the Parody when compared to the genre's more modern offerings; Disaster Movie et al. simply take a product as-is and toss it aimlessly into a blender and hope for the best. Spaceballs, on the other hand, actually takes the time to secure the best elements of any given picture and finely integrate them into its own unique story in a humorous way. No surprise that it's the latter style that made Mel Brooks one of the best Hollywood has ever known while filmmakers that take the Disaster Movie approach couldn't even tie Mel's shoes.
Even though a few odds and ends seen throughout Spaceballs are either dated ("Dot Matrix," $5 worth of gasoline considered enough) or fallacious (two instances of characters moving about open space without the aid of a suit and helmet; apparently this is the same outer space as seen in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace), the film holds up remarkably well, the humor neither stale nor irrelevant in 2009. The characters find their strides almost instantly thanks to infectious dialogue and remarkable comedic performances by each primary cast member. Rick Moranis in particular delivers an inspired and completely over-the-top effort that ranks amongst his very best in his performance of the Darth Vader-like Dark Helmet. Even secondary characters, particularly any Spaceball that has a speaking part, far exceed expectations and manage to make their small characters as memorable as Dark Helmet, Skroob, Barf, Lone Starr, or Vespa. Whether the radar man played by Michael Winslow, the communications officer who went around (not over!) Dark Helmet's helmet, or the entire group of cross-eyed "@$$#0!($," Spaceballs features some of the best one-minute characters in all of cinema. The film also gets plenty of play out of its more subtle jokes, particularly those that take everyday expressions literally; "jamming" the enemy radar means shooting an extra-large jar of raspberry jam at Spaceball One, and President Skroob's strict orders to "comb the desert" results in several troopers pushing combs across the sandy terrain. Of course, Mel Brooks doesn't stop there, seeing an opportunity to poke fun at the situation by writing into the script a line questioning the merits of following the literal rather than implied translation of the President's orders. Also recalling the scores from Lawrence of Arabia and Jaws, taking aim at several other movie franchises including Planet of the Apes, Alien, and Star Trek, and acknowledging throughout the importance of marketing and merchandising to a film's success, Spaceballs never falters to deliver the quintessential movie parody.
Spaceballs Blu-ray, Video Quality
Spaceballs lands on Blu-ray with a marvelous 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Though appearing just the slightest bit dim, the transfer nevertheless dazzles in most every area. Colors appear rather strong throughout, particularly the brighter hues as witnessed in the scenes taking place on Druidia. Even in the other primary locales, all of which feature their own unique colors schemes -- brown and tan dominate the interior of the Winnebago; steely grays are found predominantly inside Spaceball One; shadowy, muted browns make up much of Yogurt's underground lair -- all manage to impress greatly on this Blu-ray release. The higher resolution also greatly improves upon the detail seen throughout. Whether the wear on Lone Starr's Indiana Jones-esque leather jacket or the revelation of some of the imperfections on the set -- scratches, dents, and mediocre paint jobs -- the 1080p transfer allows audiences to see Spaceballs as it was meant to be seen. The transfer also allows for easier recognition of some of the film's more subtle background information that might have been missed in previous releases, for instance a line of Rocky VHS boxes on a lower shelf of the Mr. Rental station aboard Spaceball One. Special effects shots appear noticeably rougher than any other aspect of the film, with a bit more in the way of grain and containing the majority of the scratches, pops, and speckles. Still, the appearance of such anomalies is generally minimal and hardly distracting. Outside the effects shots, the transfer is generally clean and film grain is never overbearing. Also sporting adequate blacks and flesh tones, Spaceballs on Blu-ray looks fantastic for home viewing, better than even the cast and crew could have imagined when viewing the "instant cassette" of the film on the bridge of Spaceball One.
Spaceballs Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Boasting a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, this Blu-ray release of Spaceballs betters its home video predecessors considerably. No matter what the soundtrack has to offer, the lossless mix handles it expertly. The upbeat track that accompanies the opening scrolling text dazzles across the entire range, playing clearly and cleanly as it engulfs the soundstage, and is equalled in presence by the menacing, Jaws-like track that plays over the opening shot of a rumbling Spaceball One as it slowly maneuvers through space. Throughout the film, music plays with a clarity that dazzles in every instance, and its presence may be enjoyed throughout the entire soundstage. The rear channels come alive with regularity, both in support of the music and offering plenty of information during action sequences. Whether echoing voices, organ music at Princes Vespa's wedding ceremony, Bon Jovi's "Raise Your Hands" as heard during the introductions of Barf and Lone Starr, or laser blasts during a shootout in the final act, the back channels certainly make their presence known and provide great atmosphere and a sense of immersion into the Spaceballs experience. Complimented by crystal-clear dialogue reproduction, Spaceballs soars with a wonderful soundtrack that surpasses all expectations.
Spaceballs Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Spaceballs arrives on Blu-ray with a good selection of bonus features, headlined by a commentary track with Writer/Director/Actor Mel Brooks. Brooks delivers a suitable yet somewhat dry track. He recounts plenty of basic tidbits about the making of the film, covering the casting, the score, the process of writing the film, and more. He points out many of the jokes in the picture that more often than not speak for themselves, but discusses some of the more nuanced parts of the films, like "Skroob" almost being the reverse of "Brooks." This is a good commentary that fans should enjoy. Spaceballs: The Documentary (480p, 30:04) takes an interesting look into the world of the film, featuring plenty of cast and crew interview clips as they recount not only the film but the angles that made it so successful, particularly what makes for a great spoof. The piece also covers the special effects, the sets and props, shooting locations, the gags and the fun on-set, and much more. In Conversation: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan (480p, 20:30) contains a discussion amongst the writers recounting several facets of the project, focusing, no surprise, on the writing. The piece can meander at times but longtime Spaceballs fans will want to sit down with this one.
John Candy: Comic Spirit (480p, 10:02) is next, a good piece remembering one of Comedy's all-time great stars through interview clips with Spaceballs cast and crew, vintage clips of Candy speaking on his career, and clips from his other works. Watch the Movie in Ludicrous Speed (1080p, 0:29) plays the entire picture in seconds. Also included are several still galleries: 'Spaceballs:' The Behind-the-Movie Photos, 'Spaceballs:' The Costume Gallery, and 'Spaceballs:' The Art Gallery. Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (480p, 6:41) shows several scenes played side-by-side with their hand-drawn storyboard counterparts. Rounding out the extras on disc one is Film Flubs (480p), a collection of six scenes with filmmaking errors highlighted, and two trailers: Exhibitor Trailer With Mel Brooks Introduction (480p, 2:12) and the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:30). Also included on a second disc is a DVD edition of the film. Containing a 1.85:1 presentation on one side and a 4:3 cropped presentation on the other, the disc also contains several supplements: a commentary track, the theatrical trailer, and "Special Behind-the-Scenes Footage."
Spaceballs Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Saying that Spaceballs represents Mel Brooks at his best would be a disservice to the director's other works, but the film is definitely his most accessible to audiences thanks to its structure built around Star Wars. A parody of that franchise but certainly a film that is both funny and unique in its own right and capable of standing on its own without the Star Wars crutch, Spaceballs nails the parody concept and certainly surpasses any such endeavor of a more recent vintage, and arguably beats any parody from any era. This Comedy classic arrives on Blu-ray as a great overall package from MGM. Boasting a strong 1080p transfer, a wonderful lossless soundtrack, and plenty of bonus materials, not to mention a DVD copy of the film, adding Spaceballs to the collection is as big a no-brainer as ditching Prince Valium for Lone Starr. Fasten all seat belts, seal all entrances and exits, close all shops in the mall, cancel the three ring circus, secure all animals in the zoo, engage ludicrous speed, and buy this one immediately! Highly recommended.
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• Today on Blu-ray - June 16th - June 16, 2009
The 1980's were saturated with comedies featuring Saturday Night Live cast members, but few managed to have the same success as the film being released on Blu-ray today - 'Ghostbusters'. After pulling in over $200M at the domestic box office, the franchise spurred ...
• Spaceballs Gets Detailed - April 8, 2009
MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Spaceballs', which is due to hit store shelves on June 16th. Coming on a BD-50, video will ...
• Spaceballs Coming to Blu-ray - March 5, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have revealed that they will bring the Mel Brooks comedy 'Spaceballs' to Blu-ray on June 16th. No technical specs have been announced at this time, ...
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