Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spaceballs (1987)

Director: Mel Broks

Starring: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bil Pullman

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: May The Farce Be With You

Plot: Planet Spaceball's President Skroob sends Lord Dark Helmet to steal Planet Druidia's abundant supply of air to replenish their own, and only Lone Starr can stop them.

My Rating: 6/10

Would I watch it again? It's been about 20 years since I saw it, so...maybe in another 20.

I've been a big fan of Brooks since I was a kid in the late 70s. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) and BLAZING SADDLES (1974) were the films that kicked off my love affair of all things Brooks. As a teen I checked out THE PRODUCERS (1968) and gained a whole new respect. These three films, if forced to make a top ten comedy list, would be on it and toward the top. I enjoyed all of his other output in the 70s but not nearly as much as the above three. HISTORY OF THE WORLD: PART I (1981) is an interesting film because, in my eyes, it saw the beginning of his downfall.

You see, I LOVE the first 2/3 of that one. The Roman Empire bit is some of his best work. Then came the French Revolution segment and it just fell flat. It went from "on top of you game" Mel Brooks to "what the hell happened?" Mel Brooks, all in one film. After that came SPACEBALLS (some great gags but a fair share of lame), LIFE STINKS (1991) (should have been called, THIS MOVIE STINKS), ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (1993) (embarrassingly bad) which was so bad that it turned me off from even seeing his next and last film, DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995).

I will likely give ROBIN HOOD another chance someday and even get around to DRACULA. I'm not the least bit excited about it and it may take years before I'm in the mood. I want to like everything he's done because he's produced some of the most brilliant comedy in the 20th century. Where did he go wrong? I'm not going to try and figure that out just yet, but I think it boils down to running out of ideas, steam and pure laziness.

THE PRODUCERS, BS & YF are all very different films with very different styles of comedy. Brooks OWNED comedy for a decade. He WAS comedy. Then jump ahead to SPACEBALLS. There are some truly great moments here, don't get me wrong. "Funny, she doesn't look Druish" could be groan-inducing but John Candy delivers it so well it's hysterical.

Rick Moranis (we miss you, please come back to the big screen!) has some of the best bits. My favorites are when he and John Wyner are looking at the film on the moniter. "When does this happen in the movie?". "This is now, sir." and the ludicrous speed bit where he goes flying into the control panel. I'm howling at this point. Really, just about everything he does has me smiling and Candy is a stitch!

The special effects hold up well and John Morris' music is great as always. The acting (with Moranis and Candy being the highlights) is what you'd expect but there's too much WAY over the top for my taste. Compare this to the acting in the big three I mentioned. It's in a different league. It's the difference in making a comedy for adults and one for children whereas this one has a surprising amount of "shits" and one "fuck" (which I loved, btw).

Don't misunderstand me. There is a lot to like in SPACESBALLS but, on a whole, it feels too far removed from the Brooks I grew up with and loved. A Brooks that made three movies that are 10 out of 10s. Three movies that shaped me (maybe a little too much - I need to be less Dom DeLuise in the gut and more Gene Widler). Three movies that placed Brooks so high up on a pedestal that even when he stumbles a bit with a film like SPACEBALLS, it hurts.

It's clear his best pictures are 36 years behind him and, at age 84 in just over a week (June 38), his days are getting shorter. But when he goes, he will leave behind some of the greatest moments in motion picture comedy...just not from this movie.

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