Monday, August 28, 2017

Spaceballs (1987)

Some movies are timeless.  You can watch them and they seem to speak to you the same no matter what.  If there is any political message, that message can be true regardless of how old the movie is or how old the viewer might be.  Spaceballs doesn’t seem to be one of those movies.  To be fair, I remember it being funny when it came out.  It parodied Star Wars and I knew enough about it to get the jokes.   The problem is that 30 years later, the jokes seem dated.

The story goes that Princess Vespa is about to be married to the last prince.  It’s her duty to marry royalty, even if there’s no love.  She runs away and is subsequently captured by Lord Helmet aboard the space ship Spaceball 1. President Skroob intends to hold her hostage so that her father, King Roland, will give the code to their shielding, allowing Spaceball 1 to take all their air.

King Roland calls up Lone Starr and Barf to rescue the princess, which they do.  Unfortunately, they crash on a planet when they run out of gas.  On this planet, they meet Yogurt.  Yogurt is able to help them out, mostly by providing gas.  He also plugs the movie’s massive merchandising, including lunch boxes and the like.  (Do they even still sell lunch boxes like they had in the 80s?)  Being a comedy, Lone Star saves the day and the bad guys get what’s coming to them.

Someone not born in the 1980s probably isn’t going to get all the references.  Some, like Star Trek and Star Wars are somewhat obvious.  Others, like having Michael Winslow as a radar technician, might go over someone’s head.  Even to someone that grew up in the era, the jokes may seem old.  This is something that definitely reeks of the 80s.

The humor itself isn’t necessarily offensive.  Much of the objectionable material would be some cursing and sci-fi violence.  (Think people shooting at each other with laser beams.)  There are a few off-color jokes.  Vespa’s planet is called Druidia with the demonym being Druish.  You get stuff about people looking Druish.  It’s not over the top, but similar jokes are used a few times.

For those familiar with the works of Mel Brooks, I don’t think you’ll have a lot of surprises.  Consider that you have Brooks staring as both President Skroob and Yogurt.  John Candy is Barf and Lord Helmet is played by Rick Moranis.  You’ll also catch Joan Rivers as the voice of Dot Matrix.  Bill Pullman is the only one that I thought was cast against type as Lone Starr.  (Daphne Zuniga is one of the few main actors that I didn’t recognize from another movie.  So far as I know, I‘ve only seen her as Princess Vespa.)

It’s difficult for me to issue a binary recommendation here.  It’s possible to enjoy it on the first viewing, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it.  Instead, rent it or wait for it to become available on a movie channel or through streaming.  I was able to catch the movie on Starz, although I could see it easily coming on basic cable or a broadcast channel.

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