Overdue Review: Spaceballs
Here's something you should know about me: I don't walk out of movies. Even during the Radagast the Gross scenes in The Hobbit, I didn't walk out. I just went to the bathroom, and then I came back, and if ever a movie deserved walking out of, that was it.
Something else about me: I love spoofs, satire, and parody. Blazing Saddles? Awesome sendup of the western genre. Airplane? Classic! Shaun of the Dead? That got me over my fear of zombie movies!
So when I tell you that I walked out of the theater the first time I saw Spaceballs, just know I had to seriously hate it. Of course, that was in 1987, so I don't expect you to rely on my memory of how terrible the movie was. Besides, I only saw about the first third of it, so how would I know?
In fact, over the intervening years, as Spaceballs has become something of a geek icon, I have begun to doubt my own memory of this movie. My friends seem to love it, and I hear quotes from it all the time! Surely it couldn't be that bad, right? Maybe I was just insulted that it dared to make fun of my all time favorite film, Star Wars. After all, in 1987 I was a callow youth who took Star Wars waaaay too seriously. (Unlike now, when I have just about gotten over the betrayal of Episode 1 thru 3...oh, who are we kidding? Those movies still blow.) The only fair thing to do would be to go back and watch the whole movie with an open mind and a willing heart so I can give it an honest, unbiased review. Well, I did, and here's my review:
Sorry, Mel Brooks. I love ya, but this movie is a turd from beginning to end. I didn't laugh once during the entire hour and thirty-six minutes. Instead, I spent my time wondering "WHY NOT?" If I'm being honest, Spaceballs should be squarely in my wheelhouse. I can see the absurdities inherent in space opera, and I love fan films that play off them--hell, I've even MADE a Star Wars fan film with my kids. So why doesn't this one do ANYTHING for me?
I think it's because previous Mel Brooks parody films displayed a deep and abiding love of their source material. Brooks and his writers grew up watching westerns, monster movies, and the like, and they remember them fondly while still acknowledging their weird conventions and tropes. This affection shows through in the parodies.
I don't believe Brooks and company had the same affection or deep understanding of space opera or science fiction when they made Spaceballs. Instead a loving pastiche, this movie comes off as just ridicule, and not very keen ridicule at that. Furthermore, Brooks' best movies not only told a story, but tried to say something while telling it. Blazing Saddles was a story about racism; Young Frankenstein about destiny and self-sacrifice. And while Spaceballs does have a complete story, what is it about? Guys stealing air? A big helmet?
I know! Merchandising! "Spaceballs: The Lunchbox! Spaceballs: The Toilet Paper! Spaceballs: The Flame Thrower!"
Well, this is "Spaceballs: The Bad Review". Suck, suck, suck.