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

Ghostbusters

  • Title:  Ghostbusters
  • Director:  Ivan Reitman
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Columbia Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Comedy
  • Cast:  Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Back off man, I’m a scientist!” — Dr. Peter Venkman

“Yes, of course, they’re serious.” –Janine

“If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.”  — Winston Zeddemore

Ghostbusters was a favorite film of mine when I first saw it when it came out, and it remains a favorite.  It’s one of those movies where I can quote most of the dialogue.  I also enjoy and own the complete The Real Ghostbusters animated series.

But what seems hard to imagine now was just how revolutionary the film was at the time it was made.  Prior to Ghostbusters, most science fiction movies were deadly serious or even depressing (think 2001, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, etc).  Ghostbusters is funny — and works as a comedy as equally well as a SF/Fantasy film.  Second, the film used real newscasters and television personalities in it’s montage sequence in the middle (including Larry King and Casey Kasem), as well as real newspapers and magazines with obviously created headlines about the Ghostbusters — this placed a fantasy/SF film in a real context.  Also, the special effects were state of the art for the time, and included model work, matte paintings, and hand animation — this would have been a bit early for CGI.  In many ways, Ghostbusters, as a film is the grandfather of a lot of today’s popular films.

The film also has an almost vignette style to it — though the vignettes build on and support each other, building to the big confrontation on the top of Dana Barrett’s apartment building with Gozer.  Drs. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis), are paranormal researchers at Columbia University but are fired for wasting department resources and poor skills at research and publishing.  However, having just actually encountered their first real ghost at the New York Public Library, Peter comes up with the idea of opening their own paranormal elimination and storage business.  At first, they aren’t getting anywhere.  Then one client, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) arrives, and Peter immediately takes a shine to her.  Peter’s initial investigation doesn’t really turn up much, but Dana and her neighbor Lewis Tully (Rick Moranis) will prove to be at the center of  the paranormal happenings.  Meanwhile, EPA Agent Walter Peck, whom Peter’s irritated once, shows up at Ghostbuster Central and shuts down the protection grid for the ghost containment system.  It blows sky high, as does the building.  The Ghostbusters are arrested, but as ghosts take over the city, and Dana’s apartment is obviously the center of it all, the mayor gets them out of jail and Peter convinces him to allow them to try to stop Gozer.  They do, of course, in a thrilling and exciting sequence.

Overall, Ghostbusters is a really good film.  It’s funny, clever, intelligent, and has a fair amount of action, as well as good special effects.  I do highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See It
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Goldeneye