“Spaceballs” – Going where No “Star Wars” Parody has gone Before

On the 25th of May, 1977, a little movie entitled “Star Wars”: A New Hope was released in theatres worldwide.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away,  Luke Skywalker, ( Mark Hamill),a humble farmboy, gets thrust into an intergalactic war, and must rescue a princess from distress. As you all know, the franchise is possibly one of the most iconic out there, next to “Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”, “James Bond” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of this acclaimed series. So, to celebrate, I’m going to review  Mel Brook’s 1987 parody “Spaceballs”, which gleefully sends up all of the common tropes and plot lines from George Lucas’ classic space odyssey adventure, and while the plot closely rehashes many elements of the original trilogy, it also pokes fun of other TV shows and movies, such as “Star Trek”, “Jaws”, “Alien” and “Planet of the Apes”, in very much the same fashion as the “Airplane” or “Naked Gun” movies!

In “Spaceballs”,  the villainous Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) plots to capture spoiled princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) and deprive her planet Druidia of air. It’s up to scruffy space jockey Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his loyal mawg (Half-man, half-dog) sidekick Barf (John Candy) to step up to the challenge and rescue her. Along the way, they encounter some parodies of “Star Wars” characters, such as the CP30 inspired bot, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers), gangster Pizza the Hut (Dom DeLuise), and the sage mentor Yoghurt (played by Brooks himself), who advises our heroes to use the power of “the schwartz” when necessary.

In one word, “Spaceballs”, is, well, ridiculous. However, it’s cheerfully aware of its own absurdity, and has the characters acknowledge that they’re in a movie several times by openly “breaking the forth wall, so to speak. This is brilliantly conveyed in one particular scene, in which Helmet and his underling, Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) actually watch “Spaceballs: The Movie” in order to get a solution to their current dilemma, and end up viewing themselves viewing themselves in the actual scene that we’re currently watching! A similar joke also involves Yoghurt brandishing “Spaceballs” merchandise, including t-shirts, lunchboxes and a flamethrower.

Another favourite gag towards the end of the movie involves a cameo from the late actor, John Hurt, in a replication of his famous “chestbuster” scene from the original “Alien” (1979) movie. This  comes complete with the alien performing a ragtime dance number in the style of Michigan J. Frog from the old cartoon short “One Froggy Evening”. Hurt’s reaction of “Not again” , makes the spectacle all the more funnier.

John Candy, as always, is as brilliant with his jokes as ever. In addition to Yoghurt, Brooks also plays ditsy Spaceball president  Skroob, and Rick Moranis, best known for playing nerdy characters in works such as “Ghostbusters” and “Honey, I shrunk the kids”.

“Spaceballs” is a fun movie to watch, and I give it 3 out of 5 stars in total. Even if you’re not a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise, you may enjoy many of the cultural gags and references that are scattered throughout.  The movie was followed by a short lived animated adaptation decades later, but it didn’t fare too well, and was axed by the network before it even aired. Its brand of humour won’t suit to everyone’s tastes. Nevertheless, I would still recommend giving this flick a watch, anyway. May the schwartz be with you!

Surely Airplane! is one of the best Parody Movies of the 80’s?

Carrying on from my review of “The Naked Gun” Movies, I will review “Airplane”! (1980), as well as its sequel, “Airplane II: The Sequel”. This is similar to the “Naked Gun” saga in that both feature Leslie Nielsen among the principle cast members, and they both poke fun at a certain film genre. With the “Naked Gun” it was cop dramas, with “Airplane”! it’s disaster films, particularly a 1957 film entitled “Zero Hour”, which has much the same premise as this parody remake.

As soon as the opening credits begin, the theme music from “Jaws” plays on the soundtrack, we see a backdrop of clouds, with a plane wing motioning through these clouds as though it were a shark. It’s then that we know that we’re in for a compelling flight.

The plot of the first movie concerns former fighter pilot, Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who has developed a phobia of flying following his time in a recent war. His lack of motivation causes his stewardess girlfriend, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), to end things with him. Desperate to win her back, Striker sneaks aboard the same plane.

However, some faulty fish served for dinner renders many of the passengers, as well as the crew, in a state of sickness. With nobody left to fly the plane, mild-mannered Doctor Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) suggests that they use one of the passengers to pilot the plane to safety. Perhaps a certain former pilot can jump in and save the day…

The sequel “Airplane II: The Sequel”(1982) sees the absence of Leslie Nielsen and the crew who were involved with the original picture (namely, David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams). However, the movie still works despite them being gone. In this installment, Striker finds himself forced to land another plane, this one being a lunar shuttle gone haywire. The jokes are still as hilarious as ever, though.

This was Leslie Nielsen’s first foray in comedic acting, having established himself as a dramatic actor in several flicks during the 1970’s. The material, like “Naked Gun”, is lampooning several 70’s disaster movies, sometimes word for word. In addition, there’s a hilarious send up of “Saturday Night Fever” that arises when Striker is reminiscing over his time with Elaine, which never fails to send me into stitches each time I see it!

“Airplane”! earns four out of five stars from me, as it’s a terrific send up of 1970’s disaster movies of yore. I’d advise teenagers of 15 and up to view this movie, as it contains copious amounts of sexual innuendo, as well as drug references and uses. There’s additionally a running gag involving various characters committing suicide in order to avoid having to listen to one of Striker’s boring stories (played for laughs, naturally).

However, kids might still have fun laughing at all the zany, screwball humour and jokes. That being said, “Airplane”! rates as a classic spoof of all time!