Wednesday, January 22, 2014

43. Spaceballs (1987)

Spaceballs (1987)

Code-name: Yogurt
"Yogurt, Yogurt, I hate yogurt! Even with strawberries!"

Writer/Producer/Director: Mel Brooks
Type: Comedy spoof, Sci-fi
Music: John Morris

(In Order of Appearance)
Dark Helmet- Rick Moranis
Colonel Sanders- George Wyner
Princess Vespa- Daphne Zuniga
Dot-Matrix (voice)- Joan Rivers
King Roland- Dick Von Patten
President Skroob- Mel Brooks
Lone-Star- Bill Pullman
Barf- John Candy
Pizza the Hutt- Dom DeLuise
Michael Winslow as himself
Yogurt- Mel Brooks


After spoofing westerns with "Blazing Saddles," Frankenstein films with "Young Frankenstein," and historical epics with "History of the World- Part 1," Mel Brooks decided to take it upon himself in the late 80's to spoof the next big thing in movies: "Star Wars."

I caught part of the AFI roast for Mel Brooks last year and George Lucas did an intro into this movie, describing his world of "Stars Wars" and capped it off by turning to the camera to say: "...and this is what Mel Brooks did to it."

In a nutshell, that's what the movie is.


The Spaceballs, led by Dark Helmet (a shorter, somewhat goofy version of Darth Vadar) and Colonel Sanders, have a devious plan to take the supply of fresh air from the peaceful planet of Druidia. This involves capturing Princess Vespa and holding her for ransom until King Roland relents.
Their timing for this plan seems to be perfect since she decided at the last second to run away from her wedding to the dull & boring Prince Valium. Her droid maid-of-honor Dot-Matrix reluctantly comes along.

As Spaceball One threatens to abduct Princess Vespa's ship, King Roland contacts Lone-Star and his mawg (half-man, half-dog) co-pilot, Barf, offering them payment for the return of the Princess.
They agree because they owe a million Space-bucks to notorious gangster, Pizza the Hutt.

Lone-Star and Princess Vespa begin their journey back butting heads, but grow to like each other as time goes on. They crash land on a desert planet (like Tatooine) and meet with Yogurt, the keeper of the Schwartz. Lone-Star gets only a couple lessons about the Schwartz by the time Dark Helmet captures the Princess... resulting in a rescue mission, a final light saber-esque showdown, defeating the bad guys and our crazy couple end up happily ever after.

[Hilarity Ensues]

Before I paid attention to writers and directors, I knew Mel Brooks as a comedic genius. He makes various genres approachable, balancing homage with social commentary and pop culture references. And when he's acting, he likes to play multiple characters and usually comes the closest to breaking the 4th wall of all the characters in his films.

It doesn't matter if President Skroob is the leader of Planet Spaceball, he's still a goof and a bit of an idiot. Who else would have 12345 as the combination on his luggage?
I especially love the comment during the villain comeuppance sequence.
"I can't make decisions! I'm the president!"

Yogurt is more like the movie's embodiment of Mel Brooks than Yoda. His business on his desert planet is merchandising "where the real money from the movie is made." Everything from Spaceballs the Lunchbox to Spaceballs the Flame-thrower.
(Ironically, George Lucas's one stipulation for this movie's creation is that none of these products are actually made to expand the Spaceballs brand outside of the movie).
And of course, we have the classic Mel Brooks utterance of a fake sequel:
"God willing we all met again in 'SpaceBalls 2- The Search for More Money.'"

Like with a lot of my favorite comedies, the hilarious lines can come at any time and take on a number of forms.
The first line sets the perfect tone. After 3 minutes of Spaceball One going across the screen, Dark Helmet approaches the camera and removes his helmet to reveal Rick Moranis underneath.
"I can't breathe in this thing!" so he goes back and forth between speaking with the helmet on and with it off.

What's even funnier is that the villains are sometimes more interesting and hilarious than our heroes, which is mostly Lone-Star and Princess Vespa butting heads.
Michael Winslow (of "Police Academy" fame) makes a cameo as a Radar Technician who makes all the sound effects for the jammed radar... and of course, it's literal jam and Dark Helmet knows that only Lone-Star would dare "give him the raspberry[ jam]."
There's a scene where Dark Helmet is playing with Spaceballs action figures where he ends up making out with the princess and Colonel Sanders walks in on him.

Probably the best part is when Lone-Star and Dark Helmet meet and his introduction is this:

"There's something you don't know about us, Lone-Star. I am your father's, brother's, nephew's, cousin's former roommate."
"What does that make us?"
"Absolutely nothing. Which is what you're about to become."

I don't remember exactly when or how I came across this movie, but it was something my aunt/godmother and her family loved and it transferred to us. Every time it comes on, my sister and I get a good kick out of it... another one of those "line-for-line" movies where we could almost put it on mute and fill in the words ourselves... almost.

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