Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spaceballs (1987)

Spaceballs is a spoof of Star Wars Episode IV, if that isn’t made obvious in the first, say, ten seconds of the film, by viewing the cover art of the DVD, or the storyline of the movie. Occasionally, it will make a reference to another SF film, but this is quite seldom. You aren’t really going to get most of the humour if you haven’t watched Star Wars before. So it’s lucky that I have watched it earlier this year (before starting the 42 Science Fiction Challenge).

As such, the plotline is pretty much lifted from Star Wars Episode IV, with a few alterations - Princess Vespa has been kidnapped by Dark Helmet, and Lone Star has to rescue her, enticed by the offer of a reward. Dark Helmet wants Vespa as a bargaining chip; he needs Vespa’s father to open up the planet so that he can steal their resources. No, you aren’t going to be having deep intellectual discussions with other people on the internet about the plot of this movie.

It’s quite obvious that the main reason why anyone would watch this movie is for the humour. The movie doesn’t have any original ideas, an original plot, or decent acting, for that matter. In fact, I think that the actors might have acted like hams for their roles somewhat, if they are not naturally that bad. Or they are good actors doing what little they can for such poor characterisation; any of these options end up the same for those sitting through the movie. Thankfully, there are some very good laughs here to help take your focus away from this – travelling at ridiculous speed (even faster than light speed!), repeated merchandising jokes, the campervan spacecraft, the Star Trek matter transporter joke, and quite a few others. Too often for my liking though, it descends into silliness that is without humour: Dark Helmet playing with his dolls, for example, Pizza The Hut (you can figure out the joke from the name, and it is as humourless as it sounds), or silly names like Yoghurt and Barf.

The main problem with this movie, though, is that it buys into some of the worst stuff of the original Star Wars movie without even questioning the internal logic of these ideas – the satire simply does not cut far enough into the movie. I did enjoy Star Wars Episode IV, although I didn’t think it worthy of being ranked as one of the best SF movies of all time. But the spoof of the movie does not question some of the sillier ideas of the movie – it completely buys into the “one planet, one climate” idea, for example, the Luke Skywalker farmer-to-Jedi Knight story is not questioned at all (in fact, there’s no Skywalker equivalent in “Spaceballs”), and the internal logic of the force is barely questioned, except to make a merchandising joke.

To sum up, you’ll get some laughs from Spaceballs – it is quite funny. But the rest of the movie is offendingly sub-par, and some of the more questionable aspects of Star Wars Episode IV are barely questioned, which I don’t think is good enough for amounts to a satire of a single movie. 2/5.

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