Spaceballs: Mel Brooks’ Star Wars Spoof Marks 32 Years

Barf (John Candy), Dot Matrix (Lorene Yarnell Jansson/Joan Rivers), Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), and Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) in Spaceballs. Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.

Spaceballs, Mel Brooks’ celebrated classic spoof of Star Wars and similar sci-fi films, marks its 32nd anniversary this year.

Planet Spaceball–led by the inept President Skroob (Mel Brooks)–is out of clean air so they’re heading to planet Druida to suck all the fresh air.  As soon as the opening crawl finishes, the camera tracks Spaceball One from the start of the ship all the way to the rear.  The ship is so huge to the point in which it is probably larger than any of the Empire’s fleet.  Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) is at the command of the ship but Skroob sends the not-so-menacing Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to make sure the job gets done.  Meanwhile on the planet, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) is set to marry Prince Valium against her will.

The princess makes a run for it so King Rolan (Dick Van Patten) contacts Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and Barf (John Candy).  Lone Starr is a mix of both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.  I’m surprised that Brooks didn’t try and spoof both characters.  Not surprisingly, the duo have a price on their head thanks to Pizza the Hutt.  After rescuing the princess and making their getaway, Eagle 5 is forced to land on the desert moon of Vega.  This is where the Dinks take them to the great Yogurt (Mel Brooks).  Appropriately, Yogurt trains Lone Starr in the power of the Schwartz.

While Star Wars is the film that gets spoofed the most in the comedy, Brooks manages to poke fun at Star Trek, Alien, and Planet of the Apes to name a few.  The Alien reference is hysterical with none other than John Hurt making a cameo himself.  After the head of Mega Maid crashes onto a nearby planet, the Planet of the Apes joke writes itself.  There are a countless number of jokes including making a reference to the iconic “I am your father” line.  In this case, Dark Helmet informs Lone Starr, “I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.”

Many of Brooks’ films are hysterical in their own right but Spaceballs manages to take on a world of its own.   As a filmmaker, Brooks isn’t afraid of going meta or breaking the fourth wall in this picture.  There’s a joke after going ludicrous speed in which Dark Helmet is watching video of the film as it’s taking place.  This is where we can find the classic joke about what happened to then.  Meanwhile at Yogurt’s headquarters, we see how the film is invested in all the merchandising.  It’s no joke that the merchandising is where many films make their most money.  Maybe even more than the film itself.

Similar to Brooks’ other films, Spaceballs makes reference to a sequel, Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money.  It was thought that this film might happen as a result of the new Star Wars trilogy.  I would wager to say that it’s unlikely at this point.

Spaceballs is able to succeed as a sci-fi genre spoof regardless of being released a decade after Star Wars.

DIRECTOR:  Mel Brooks
SCREENWRITERS:  Mel Brooks & Ronny Graham & Thomas Meehan
CAST:  Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Joan Rivers

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer opened Spaceballs in theaters on June 24, 2019. The film is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.