Spaceballs is a 1987 film written and directed by Mel Brooks. It remains to this day the most expensive film ever made by the director, with a budget of 25 million dollars of which, apparently, five went directly to George Lucas and his Industrial Light and Magic for post-production. Mel Brooks was clever enough to ask and obtain the consent of Lucas before starting to work on the parody of his most beloved movie, namely the first Star Wars (1977). The only condition that Lucas imposed on him was the ban on marketing gadgets related to the film (he didn’t want any competition on toys!). Too bad, I’ve always wanted Spaceballs: The Flamethrower, but if that’s the price to pay (to Lucas) in order to be able to watch Spaceballs, I’m happy to pay it.
The protagonist of the movie is the then unknown Bill Pullman (now well-known for playing the president of the United States in Independence Day, 1996) assisted by a remarkable cast: John Candy (The Blues Brothers, 1980), Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters, 1984), Daphne Zuniga (The Fly II, 1989)… Moreover, the cast also includes a number of American comedians popular at that time. Luckily, the strength of the film lies in the fact that its comedy goes far beyond referring to famous comedians and TV programs, otherwise we wouldn’t talk about it in 2019. Not only does Spaceballs work as a parody of Star Wars, with endless references to the films of the original trilogy, but it is also a fun adventure movie crammed with fantastic jokes. It’s impossible not to laugh all the time, especially during the Empire scenes with the amazing Rick Moranis in the role of Dark Helmet.
The combing of the desert (with the detail of the ridiculous beige uniform of Dark Helmet), going to plaid without a safety belt, the instant cassettes, Mr Coffee and Mr Radar, chairman Skroob’s transporter, the jammed radar, the assholes on the ship… There are endless hilarious jokes in this movie! Not to mention the cinematographic references like the Alien’s (1979) with John Hurt dying again because of a chestburster! By the way, the transporter is not the only connection to Star Trek, there’s also Tim Russ (among other things he plays Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager) in the desert with Dark Helmet! But the list doesn’t end here, there’s Pizza The Hutt, Barf, May the Schwartz be with you…
Like all the better parodies out there, Spaceballs not only entertains, but pays tribute to the genre it parodies while at the same time becoming one of its best examples. In fact, it’s an excellent science fiction / fantasy film (even according to George Lucas himself), even though its plot is clearly borrowed directly from Star Wars, with princess Wasp, Lone Starr and Barf being the counterparts to Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca. When the movie came out it was criticized for arriving late, a decade after the first Star Wars movie, but honestly I find this criticism devoid of any substance. What about Young Frankenstein (1974), released decades after the original Universal films and yet such a great parody? Spaceballs is undoubtedly a brilliant comedy, it earned the status of cult movie, and rightly so, and it’s ludicrously funny. To be seen for sure! Ciao!