Spaceballs

  • Title:  Spaceballs
  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Date:  1987
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Patten,  George Wyner, Joan Rivers
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You idiots!  These are not them!  You’ve captured their stunt doubles!” — Spaceball Officer

“Preparing ship for Metamorphosis, sir.”  — Col. Sanders
“Good, get on with it.”  — President Skroob
“Ready, Kafka.” — Dark Helmet

Spaceballs is a bit disappointing for a Mel Brooks film.  The best moments are the tiny references to other classic films, and most of the Star Wars references don’t quite work. There’s also a lot of juvenile humor in the film.  One of the more successful things in the film is the use of music, for example when the extremely long Spaceballs ship is first seen at the beginning of the film, the Jaws theme is heard. Later, when Lone Star and company crash land in the desert, the theme to Lawrence of Arabia is heard.

The film opens with the Spaceballs plotting to steal the air from the peaceful planet of Druidia. Over population, huge city complexes, and the complete destruction of nature and industrialization of the planet have used up all the air on Planet Spaceball.  Meanwhile, on Druidia, Princess Vespa is to be married to Prince Valium, who is as boring as his name suggests.  Vespa, wisely runs away from her own wedding.

Vespa is caught by the Spaceballs, and King Roland, her father, offers to pay one million Spacebucks to Lone Star.  Lone Star needs the money to pay off Pizza the Hutt, a notorious gangster.  Pizza the Hutt is a disgusting character.  Lone Star flies through space in his Winnebago, with his best friend, Barf, a “Mog”, half-man/half-dog character played by John Candy.

Lone Star succeeds in rescuing the princess and escaping the Spaceballs, but runs out of gas and crash lands on a desert planet.  They are rescued by “Dinks” who appear to the Seven Dwarfs music from Snow White. The dinks bring Lone Star, Dot Matrix (the princess’s personal droid), Princess Vespa, and Barf to a secret temple, where they meet Yogurt, practitioner of The Swartz.  The scene where the four approach the huge statute of Yogurt, terrified, is reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz.

The transformed Spaceballs ship, which had turned into a gigantic maid, starts to remove the air from Druidia, but Lone Star uses the power of the Swartz to reverse the air flow, then he flies into the ship, finds the self-destruct and destroys it.  The head and arm land on another planet, where two apes on horses are disgusted by the Spaceballs claiming out of it’s nose.  Yes, it’s a reference to the original Planet of The Apes.

Soon, Lone Star takes Vespa and Dot back to planet Druidia.  Once again, Vespa is ready to be married. She, however, has doubts when she’s told by her father than Lone Star turned down the one million spacebucks.  At the last minute, Lone Star arrives and he and Vespa are married.

A constant joke throughout the film pokes fun at Star Wars merchandise, as nearly everything is “Spaceballs the _____ blank”, where blank is the actual item, such as “Spaceballs the towel”, etc.  This joke gets old quickly and is over used.  Another slightly funnier joke, that’s still used a lot, is not only is there a “Mr. Coffee” but also a “Mr. RADAR”, etc.  And several characters, especially among the Spaceballs, talk to the audience and break the fourth wall.

Overall, not the best of  Brooks’ films by a long shot, but it still has some very funny moments.  If  the leads had been Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn the film may have been much more funny, but that wasn’t possible.

Recommendation:  Eh, see or not, doesn’t much matter
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Spider-man

Advertisements

Robin Hood Men in Tights

  • Title:  Robin Hood Men in Tights
  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Date:  1993
  • Studio:  Columbia / Tri-Star
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Amy Yasbeck, Tracey Ullman, Megan Cavanagh
  • Cameo Cast:  Patrick Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Mel Brooks
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R2, PAL

“Let me introduce you to my best friend, Will Scarlett.” — Little John
“Scarlett is my middle name. My full name is Will Scarlett o’Hara. … We’re from Georgia.” — Will

“And why should the people listen to you?” — Prince John
“Because, unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.”  — Robin

“We’re men, we’re men in tights. Tight, tights!
Always on guard, defending the people’s rights.
When you’re in a fix, just call for the men in tights.”  — “Men in Tights”, song and dance number (Cast)

Robin Hood:  Men in Tights came out as a parody of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood:  Prince of Thieves, but actually also parodies the classic 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn. There are also some references to the ITV series, Robin of  Sherwood (aka Robin Hood – the one starring Michael Praed and Jason Connery). But with a new Robin Hood film in theaters (Starring Russell Crowe, and directed by Ridley Scott) and a new Robin Hood TV series (starring Jonas Armstrong and Richard Armitage) – this parody actually almost seems to work better now than when it was originally released. Some references no longer really work, but Cary Elwes is the perfect Robin Hood.

In this version of the tale, Robin is captured in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and thrown in a dungeon. There he meets Asneeze, who help him get free. The two led a revolt freeing all the prisoners. Thankful to be freed, Robin promises to look up and help Asneeze’s son, Achoo, when he arrives in England. In England, Robin finds his family’s castle being repossessed and the local villages being burned. He vows to rescue England from tyranny. Soon he’s put together a merry band:  Achoo, Blinkin (Robin’s family’s blind servent), Little John, and Will Scarlett. In a parody of Flynn’s Robin Hood, Elwes’ Robin brings a wild boar (rather than deer) to Prince John’s feast. He sees Marion, and they fall for each other. After a fight with Prince John’s men, Robin, rescued by his men, returns to the forest and begins training the villagers. Also, in a scene straight from The Adventures of Robin Hood, John decides to lure Robin into a trap with an archery contest. As in the Flynn film, Robin arrives at the archery contest, dressed as an old man. But it is John’s archer who splits Robin’s arrow. Shocked, Robin checks the script to see — and discovers he gets another shot. He uses a patriot target-seeking arrow, and blows up the another arrow. Robin is captured and John threatens to hang Robin, if Marion doesn’t marry him. She’s about to do it, when Achoo saves the day, shooting Robin loose from the hangman’s noose. King Richard (Patrick Stewart) arrives and knights Robin. Robin and Marion are “quickly married” by Rabbi Tuckman (Mel Brooks), and start their new life. Robin appoints Achoo the new sheriff of Rottingham. At first the villagers protest, “A black sheriff?” But Achoo responds, “Why not – it worked in Blazing Saddles,” — why do I get the feeling Brooks was waiting the entire film to use that line?

Elwes has a pencil mustache, like Flynn’s from The Adventures of  Robin Hood, and the costumes are also vintage the 1938 movie. Several scenes from the 1938 film are also parodied, notably Robin bringing the deer/boar into the Prince’s feast, and the archery contest scene. Also, Robin has a habit of starting long speeches – which quickly bore his audience. In one, he starts, sounding like Flynn, and ends, sounding like Churchill.

From Robin of  Sherwood – we get the opening sequence of the flaming arrows being shot from English longbows (in silhouette). Also, the character of Achoo, seems to be drawn from Nazzar, though he’s a lot more chatty.

But, Robin’s jibe that, “at least I can speak with an English accent,” is aimed straight at Kevin Cosner – who’s really awful accent (and inability to do one) was a major problem in Prince of Thieves. Unfortunately, though Elwes does an English accent perfectly — most of the rest of the cast is American and sounds it. The worst is Richard Lewis, who just does a bad job as Prince John.  (What is it with Prince John, anyway?  Nobody seems to get him right!  I swear, Doctor Who had the best Prince John I’ve seen in the story “The King’s Demons”).  But yeah, Robin Hood should definitely not sound like he comes from Iowa, and that was the trouble with Cosner’s film.

However, though funny in parts, and filled with some excellent honest-to-goodness sword-fighting scenes, this isn’t the classic Mel Brooks of The Producers, Blazing Saddles, or Young Frankenstein. I did like that it drew on all the Robin Hoods to date, and, again, with two new Robin Hoods out there, it’s worth watching again, but overall a bit disappointing for Mel Brooks.

There is a lot of excellent music in the film — the Robin Hood Rap is fun, the title number of We’re Men, We’re Men in Tights, is hilarious, and even Marion’s Theme is quite sweet.

Yes, I do have an R2 version of  this film. I couldn’t find an US/ R1 / NTSC version anywhere when I bought it. However, you can now find the film as part of the boxed set of Brooks’ films.

Recommendation:  It’s OK, but not stellar.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Roman Holiday