SPACEBALLS Blu-ray Review

     July 12, 2009

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Mel Brooks peaked. He peaked in 1974, when both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein came out. I love the man, he could be amazing, but that is the high point of his career. Seriously, that’s Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in the same year amazing. If Mel Brooks is remembered and loved, it’s for those two and The Producers. For the rest of it? I can say I have a fondness for Silent Movie, and the rigorous rules set up for its cast, but the rest of his body of work is not that great. There are moments here and there in much of his subsequent work, but as Jeremy “Mr. Beaks” Smith will say: “There’s No Country for Old Gag Writers.” More after the jump:

Spaceballs Blu-ray.jpgSpaceballs has some cache value because it mocks the Lucas-world in a loving way, while throwing in some Alien and Planet of the Apes jokes as well. There’s an evil planet called Spaceballs headed up by President Scroob (Mel Brooks) and lorded over by Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis). They want the air from the planet Druidia, where princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) is about to be married to a stiff. She runs off, and only Lone Star (Bill Pullman) – with his trusty half-man, half-dog Barf (John Candy) – can save her. Lone Star needs to get the Princess cause he owes money to Pizza the Hutt. Vespa has a sidekick in Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers) who is like a Jewish C3PO. The good guys run afoul of the bad guys and have to hide out on a planet where they meet Yogurt (Brooks), who gives Lone Star training in the power of the Schwartz.

Is Michael Winslow (of the Police Academy) your idea of a comic ringer? He was in the 1980’s, and so he shows up to make silly noises. The film is fun if you’re about twelve years old, and I will credit Brooks for making a story out of it, instead of just gags (as the Scary Movie crowd would devolve into) and sequences have beginnings middles and ends, but it’s a lot of Jewish schtick masquerading as satire. Moranis maintains a comic dignity while being mercilessly skewered as he does make some of the jokes funny, and it’s always good to see Bill Pullman.  But the film works best if you’re nostalgic for it because much of the jokes are either on the nose of the originals, or of the poopy farty kind.

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MGM Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS HD 5.1 surround and in original Stereo surround. There’s also a Mawgese audio track (1 min.) and a Dinkese audio track (1 min.). I was pleasantly surprised by the remaster. Though MGM ponied up for a 5.1 mix even in the laserdisc days, the film looks great, and the picture quality is excellent. Heck, the effects work isn’t shabby at all, for that matter. Extras include a commentary by Mel Brooks, who thinks every joke is funny (as he should), and a documentary (30 min.) with Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, George Wyner, Joan Rivers, Brooks and many of the technicians. In “In Conversation with Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan” (21 min.) the writers are given a chance to talk about the film and its development. “John Candy Comic Spirit” (10 min.) offers a tribute to Candy and his comic genius. You can watch the movie in Ludicrous Speed (1 min.), there’s a still gallery, two trailers, six “Film Flubs” (2 min.), and a storyboard to film comparison (7 min.). And the Standard def version of the film is also included! Yay!

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