As a kid I watched Spaceballs after hearing my friends spew quotes from the film. This was maybe around 2001 or so. I was a lifelong Star Wars fan and understood all of the references, but the jokes just weren’t as funny as I had anticipated. Clever, sure. But not enough to make me laugh out loud. As an adult rewatching it, I acknowledge that there are some creative moments, and can appreciate them a little bit more, but it’s still a far cry from the types of comedies on the market today. As parody films usually are.
It’s interesting though, that the things I found funniest then are different than the things I find funny now. And then there are things that I don’t find funn–neither now nor then.
I recognize that Mel Brooks is a comedic genius, but also realize that this particular film was towards the end of his run, which ultimately ended about 8 years later.
The movie is essentially a Star Wars parody, and although the plot is superfluous, I’ll give you a little bit. A planet, run by a Darth Vader spoof, plans on stealing another planet’s air supply in order to replenish their own, so a Han Solo-type character tries to stop them.
Spaceballs is the type of film that shows how far comedy has come. Though parodies don’t really make the cut anymore, in 1987 there was a market for them.
But still, this film is extremely dated. It’s a wacky, gimmick-filled script that’s mostly not that funny anymore–or at all. The comedy is sort of all over the place. Sometimes it’s reminiscent of some B-roll Monty Python, and other times shows some radiation from Airplane!, but it never quite sticks to one schtick.
Monty Python and Airplane! are funny if you grew up with them, and still find many new fans in today’s culture. Spaceballs doesn’t have as much luck.
But it’s visually and conceptually pleasing, even if the parody premise makes us less invested in the plot. The Star Wars themes and appealing set pieces allow it to be enjoyable anyway.
Rick Moranis is great as Lord Dark Helmet, and even despite antiquated humor, the jokes never fall flat because they’re always delivered with conviction and confidence–credit to Brooks and the talented cast that he’s assembled.