Mel Brooks is a comedic genius! He knows how to have fun with the parodies he makes. He took on Westerns with ‘Blazing Saddles’, and the horror genre with ‘Young Frankenstein’. He also tried his hand at his own ‘Silent Movie’, spoofed the films of Alfred Hitchcock, (‘High Anxiety’) and tackled world history (‘History of the World Part I’ – Sorry, there is no part 2). Back in 1986, he decided to cash in on the success of a science-fiction blockbuster known as ‘Star Wars’ with ‘Spaceballs’; one of my favorite comedies as well as my second favorite parody behind ‘Dracula: Dead and Loving It’ (Also directed by Brooks).
On a serious note, I really like ‘Spaceballs’ and consider it to be one of the most well-made spoofs ever made; (despite having near unintentionally bad green screen) almost every joke that Brooks has written is ridiculous to the point of being brilliant. (Think ‘Airplane!’, but instead of jokes that feel subtly sarcastic and the title aircraft, we get puns and a discount Millennium Falcon disguised as a Winnebago with wings.) ‘Spaceballs’ also is responsible for injecting its own form of merchandise which, I feel, not only was one way for Brooks to get on ‘Star Wars’ creator George Lucas’ good side, but also unknowingly satirizes the merchandise which came from the success of Lucas’ original space trilogy.
The characters in ‘Spaceballs’ are also near copies of the iconic characters we recognize. Brooks plays a little gold sorcerer named “Yogurt” (obviously Yoda) as he teaches Bill Pullman’s Han Solo/Luke Skywalker character Lone Starr the power of “The Schwartz”(Much like the power that is “The Force”. Add the famous “May the Schwartz be with you.”, and you get the makings of a pure ‘Star Wars’ parody), which comes in a ring and adds for some funny innuendo when Lone Starr confronts the comically deep-voiced, yet nerdy-on-the-outside mini Darth Vader, Dark Helmet; (Rick Moranis at his best and funniest from what I’ve seen.) one of the best villains in comedy history. If Darth Vader is considered to be the best villain in cinematic history, then Dark Helmet is the funniest; his quotes are pure hilarity, and he has the greatest scenes in any comedy I’ve seen. One of them involves THE greatest fourth wall break that puts ‘Deadpool’ to shame.
Other characters include Barf (a Chewbacca parody portrayed by the late John Candy.), Lone Starr’s first mate/best friend who is a Mog (“Half-man, half-dog. I’m my own best friend.”); Princess Vespa (A Princess Leia parody portrayed by Daphne Zuniga), a soon-to-be-married princess of the enclosed air-filled planet of Druidia, who ditches her wedding with her robot companion/female C-3PO, Dot Matrix (Voice of the late Joan Rivers) and flies away in her “Mercedes” out of her planet; and President Skroob (Also Brooks, which is also an anagram.), the president of Planet Spaceball, who can’t seem to catch a break as he and the crew of Planet Spaceball work on stealing air from Druidia to keep their air supply at bay.
‘Spaceballs’ is funny and quippy, yet is not the laugh riot I thought it was going to be. (Yet the audience at the screening were busting up, proving that old parody is the best parody) I still appreciate its attempt at throwing joke after joke and the fun it gave me in the way Brooks knows how. Even if there is no ‘Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money’, where Yogurt claims he will meet Lone Starr again, the first ‘Spaceballs’ will still live on in the hearts, minds, and mouths of Mel Brooks fans who appreciate it for what it is: A good time! The Schwartz may be with them and hopefully it will be with those who get to experience it.