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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/4/00

1987 (2000) - MGM/UA

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Spaceballs Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/A-/C+

Specs and Features

96 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, commentary by director/co-writer/producer/star Mel Brooks, behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 2.0) and Spanish (DD Mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"Use the Schwartz!"

Planet Spaceball, an evil empire controlled by President Skroob (Mel Brooks) and his wicked minion Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), is in grave danger of running out of breathable air. Across the galaxy, the peaceful Planet Druidia is celebrating the marriage of Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). Druidia has an abundance of breathable air, and Skroob will stop at nothing to obtain it. After the Princess runs away from her wedding (she’s not in love with the groom, Prince Valium), the Spaceballs plan to capture the Princess and use her as ransom to get Druidia’s air. So her father, King Roland (Dick Van Patten), recruits the help of space cowboy Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his half-man/half-dog sidekick Barf (John Candy) to rescue his daughter and stop the evil Spaceballs from destroying his planet.

Sight gags provide the majority of laughs in Spaceballs, and most of them are very funny. The most clever and the funniest parts of this film, are when Dark Helmet and his right-hand-man Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) become aware of the audience. Dark Helmet provides an aside, has a camera run into him, and even inadvertently kills a soundman on the set of the movie. Rick Moranis’ portrayal of Dark Helmet is the strongest satirical role of the film, because the character is the complete opposite of Darth Vader (the character Moranis is satirizing). Helmet tries so hard to be intimidating and evil, even though he seems about two feet shorter than Vader, and has a whiny, high-pitched voice. There are also plenty of riffs of other Sci-fi films, including a great spoof of a scene from Alien.

This DVD presentation of Spaceballs just cries out for an anamorphic presentation, however MGM instead saw fit to recycle an old master used for the laserdisc edition of this film. Colors are accurate, and the picture is smooth, but the 1.85:1 image has plenty of problems. First of all, the print MGM used to master this transfer has a noticeable amount of dirt. Second, due to the lack of an anamorphic presentation, fine detail is wanting. The picture seems on the soft side, and there are occasions of jagged edges and other NTSC anomalies. Not allowing the disc to be a complete disappointment, MGM does provide a great Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There's a good amount of directional sound effects here that would seem at home in a more serious Sci-fi flick. The track does provide a nice level of ambience and fidelity seems to be pretty accurate, but there is a lack of low frequency that's conspicuous during some of the action sequences.

The extra features on this disc seem promising at first, but actually turn out to be a bit disappointing. The behind-the-scenes featurette is nothing more than a 9-minute promo film, that provides only a few brief and empty interviews, and not much information about the actual making of the movie. The commentary track by Mel Brooks is very frustrating, because he seems to have trouble concentrating on any one thought that enters his head, and there are several long pauses in the track where he just watches the film. However, the menus on this disc are some of the funniest I've seen yet. They are set up like a control console in a spaceship, and almost every inch of the screen is occupied by some inside joke or sight gag.

This is almost a great DVD, but MGM missed the mark with Spaceballs. Still, the film is funny enough (and the disc has just enough to it) to make it worth a look. So give it a spin, and may the Schwartz be with you!

Greg Suarez
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