Often times we judge current movies more harshly than past films because they don’t have the nostalgia factor that makes us excuse their flaws. For example in The Dark Knight Rises people complained about Bruce Wayne sneaking back into Gotham undetected in the third act, but in Batman 1989 it’s totally ok for the bat plane to miss the Joker and point blank range and being brought down by one bullet. However for today’s satire movies the harsh criticisms are justified. Occasionally we get good ones like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but we’re also plagued with crap like Epic Movie, Date Movie, Disaster movie, etc. Hell, I didn’t even think Scary Movie was funny.
In the past we had great films by Jim Abrams and the Zucker brothers, but the master was Mel Brooks. In his movies he used satire to create great characters and story first and used jokes to complement them. In bad ones the story is an afterthought and the characters are just excuses to make jokes. They’re often direct cutouts that require you to see the movie to get the jokes, and the jokes themselves are lousy to begin with. For Mel Brooks you can enjoy his movies without seeing the movies they’re based on. Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein were probably more influential for the genre, but Spaceballs is in my opinion the flat out funniest movie he’s done, a satire parody of films like Star Trek, Aliens, but mostly Star Wars.
The characters are Great so let me run them off one by one, most reminiscent of Star Wars. Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) is a character who tries to make himself seem threatening, but deep down (under the helmet) he is a complete loser and when he’s reminded of that it’s priceless. Surprisingly there is no parody character of Luke Skywalker, but instead we have Lone Star (Bill Pullman) who is essentially Han Solo with some Force powers (or should I say Schwartz powers) so we get Han’s personality and Luke’s power so best of both worlds. The humor is subtle on him but he has his moments (he was an orphan abandoned somewhere in the Ford Galaxy.) Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) is a funny spoiled brat princess (the matched luggage and hair dryer gag get me every time) more a parody of fairy tale princess but there is some Leia in her. Dot Matrix looks like the love child of C-3PO and her voice actress Joan Rivers, almost none of 3PO’s personality is there but thank god. It’s just Joan Rivers being funny. Yogurt (Mel Brooks)is the Yoda of the film. He’s wise, merchandise savvy, and acts like everyone’s favorite grandpa. President Skroob (Mel Brooks again) is not really a parody of any character, but you could argue he’s the Palpatine of the movie. He’s a completely incompetent ruler, but has an empire at his command. My personal favorite of the main cast is Barf (Full name: Barfolomew) played by the eternally loveable John Candy. He like we all feel Candy was in real life is a lovable, loyal teddy bear. He’s the Chewbacca parody but rather than talking in growls he gets the best lines of the movie, this one line sums him up, “I’m a Mawg, Half Man/Half Dog. I’m my own best friend”.
To complement these characters are some of the most consistently strong jokes in any film. They range from subtle (“I’m trying to conduct a wedding which has nothing to do with love.”) to overt (a Beaming error leaves president Skroob with his heard on backwards), to grotesque (Pizza the Hutt!) to beautifully forced (Combing the desert). If you haven’t seen in here’s a hint of what’s in store.
Helmet: Careful you idiot! I said across her nose not up it!
Gunner with crossed eyes: Sorry Sir doing my best.
Helmet: Who made that man a gunner?
Major with crossed eyes: I did sir! He’s my cousin.
Helmet: Who is he?
Colonel Sanders: He’s an Asshole.
Helmet: I know that, what’s his name?
Sanders: That is his name. Asshole, Major Asshole.
Helmet: And his cousin?
Sanders: He’s an Asshole to Sir. Gunners mate first class Phillip Asshole.
Helmet: How many Assholes we got on this ship?
Everyone on the bridge: Yo!
Helmet: I knew it, I’m surrounded by Assholes.
And my personal favorite joke
Helmet: Before you die there’s something you need to know. I am your father’s, brother’s, nephew’s, cousin’s former roommate.
Lone Star: So what does that make us?
Helmet: Absolutely Nothing!
That’s just the tip of the ice berg, If you haven’t seen this movie yet go rent it a laugh your asshole off. One more note, I saw this movie BEFORE I saw Star Wars and I still thought it was hilarious. It’s that good. May the Schwartz be with you.
Fun Fact: At the diner near the end of the movie you can see the Millennium Falcon in the parking lot.