MGM // 1987 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // July 6th, 2009
May the Schwartz be with you.
Back in the heyday of Star Wars, I was in a bit of a personal quandary: Was I more of a fan of Lucas' movies or was I a bigger Trekkie? Back then, in the glorious '80s, I skewed more towards lightsabers and Siths. With that I remember eagerly going to Spaceballs to see my favorite films parodied. These days, while I still find much to love in the universe of The Force and stupid Gungans, I am definitely a true Trekkie. I wonder if that will affect my thoughts on this movie?
Today Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga, The Fly II) is to be married, but she surely does not love the dull Prince Valium (Jim J Bullock, Too Close for Comfort). Grabbing her faithful robot Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers, The Celebrity Apprentice), she takes her Mercedes spaceship and flees her planet of Druidia. But it will be a fateful mistake as the evil Spaceballs are en route. They've consumed all their planet's air and want to steal Druidia's, and they are going to kidnap Vespa. Led by Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) and Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner, pick a television show and he's done a guest appearance on it), they are within moments of snagging Vespa when Lone Starr (Bill Pullman, Independence Day) and his sidekick Barf (John Candy, Uncle Buck) rescue the princess. Now this motley quartet must find a way to stop the Spaceballs and save the peaceful people of Druidia from this dastardly deed.
Just in case you are a noob to this Mel Brooks' film, know that it is a spoof of the (original) Star Wars trilogy, coming out a few years after Return of the Jedi). Yet while it does toss in a few other sci-fi related jokes related to Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, its heart is squarely lampooning George Lucas and his wildly popular (original) trilogy. Back when I first saw Spaceballs, I remember liking it quite a bit, as it was the first film (that I recall) that would "dare" make fun of The Trilogy. As such, I chuckled, laughed, rolled my eyes, and really found Pizza the Hut to be absolutely disgusting. I still think that last bit is true. But I never really got into the movie; never really made it one of my cult faves, reciting all the words, trying to learn the Schwartz, and going around, talking Dink.
To me, Spaceballs was a harmless piece of fluff that hit its mark pretty well for the day but never did enough to make me give it any more time or attention. These days a soft spot has opened up in my heart and I have felt the need to embrace once again the humor of Mel Brooks. With that I eagerly dropped in the disc and found myself surprised at how much of the movie I still remembered, which was pretty much all of it. Once again I found myself chuckling, amused at the silly antics on the screen; but, as in most things revisited, it just wasn't as fun twenty years later. Much of the humor still works, but it just feels a bit stale after so much time. It still hasn't earned the right to go into my cult file. I think the word "quaint" describes it well.
Where I was surprised and impressed was with the transfers on the disc. I wasn't expecting much -- I don't know why -- but what I saw and heard reminded me that just about any movie, given a bit of love and attention, will be great on Blu-ray. Video is 1.85:1, 1080p with colors that are accurate and bold when needed, details pop out like never before, and contrast gives us nice blacks for the many space scenes. Audio is either a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or a simple Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Quickly addressing the latter, the two-channel surround is fine if you have to watch the movie that way; with clear dialogue but not much of anything else. On the other hand, the new DTS mix has to sound better than even when the movie was first shown in theaters. The center channel handles all the dialogue cleanly with nary a hint of distortion. But the track really shines on the other channels, bringing you into the middle of the action. Each of the surrounds is well used to add ambience or have the laser bolts zip around you, and the bass is remarkably strong -- just wait until Spaceballs 1 comes cruising by. My only complaint here is that the center seems too quiet. When I found a comfortable level for dialogue, it was suddenly too loud for the action sequences. I wonder if the balance is quite right?
My next complaint comes with the special features. All of bonus features were previously released on DVD and there's nothing new on Blu. I like that all the old stuff is there but dismayed there's nothing new. Luckily for me, it's all new to me.
* Audio Commentary by Mel Brooks: A pretty decent listen from the man himself, imparting all kinds of stories and tales from the movie. It's my first Mel commentary and I found him less...hospitable than I imagined.
* Spaceballs: The Documentary (30:04): Starting off exceptionally self-congratulatory, this "documentary" soon gets over itself and talks about the movie. But, in the end, I felt it was too light and could have given more detail.
* In Conversation: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan (20:30): A chat with two of the three writers of Spaceballs) -- the third, Ronny Graham, is deceased. I like the format of the talk -- though I would have sworn the two weren't recorded together -- enjoyed their stories, but found Mel just a bit "spacey" and, again, less than friendly.
* John Candy: Comic Spirit (10:02): A sweet tribute to the late, great John Candy.
* Watch in Ludicrous Speed (0:29): The movie played at Ludicrous speed. Sadly, while a clever idea, it's completely useless and the entire picture is completely artifacted.
* Still Galleries: Broken down into three sections of Behind-the-Scenes, Costume, and Art.
* Trailers: Just two trailers, both for Spaceballs. The first preview trailer is a bit more interesting than average as it has Mel talking to the audience, doing a big sales pitch for his great, upcoming movie.
* Film Flubs: I like this feature as it shows the mistakes they made in the movie. Unfortunately it doesn't contain a "play all" feature so you spend more time flipping back and forth to the menu than watching the flubs.
* Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons: Self-explanatory.
And last, and most curious of all, is the inclusion of the movie on DVD. I have absolutely no idea why this is included. What benefit does it bring? Should I gift it to someone who doesn't have a Blu-ray player? I'm at a loss for this waste of material.
In addition to my few quibbles above, I'll also mention that the new menu interface is pretty bad. It's slow, doesn't show all your options at once, and it's too small. Compare this to the original on the DVD and you'll see the massive step backwards the menu took.
Spaceballs is just a cute film with a good chuckle now and then, one that hasn't held up superbly well over time. I do know my opinion clearly doesn't fall in line with most people, so stepping aside from that, should you want to buy this Blu-ray? I would say that true fans should have no hesitation in upgrading as the transfers are quite nicely done. Although I'm disappointed by the lack of new bonus material, we all know that we only watch those once (if that) and focus on the movie. So all you fans, go ahead and buy the Blu. It'll keep you satisfied until The Search for More Money gets finished.
Spaceballs is hereby found guilty of grossing me out for 20 years with
Pizza the Hut.
Review content copyright © 2009 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (German)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish, Castilian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Hungarian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG