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Spaceballs: The 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Spaceballs (1987) movie poster Spaceballs

Theatrical Release: June 26, 1987 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: PG / Songs List

Director: Mel Brooks / Writers: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan, Ronny Graham

Cast: Mel Brooks (President Skroob, Yogurt), John Candy (Barfolomew "Barf"), Rick Moranis (Dark Helmet), Bill Pullman (Captain Lone Starr), Daphne Zuniga (Princess Vespa), Dick Van Patten (King Roland), George Wyner (Colonel Sandurz), Michael Winslow (Radar Technician), Joan Rivers (voice of Dot Matrix), Lorene Yarnell (Dot Matrix), John Hurt (John Hurt), Sal Viscuso (Radio Operator), Ronny Graham (Minister), JM J. Bullock (Prince Valium), Leslie Bevis (Commanderette Zircon), Jim Jackman (Major Asshole), Michael Pniewski (Laser Gunner), Sandy Helberg (Dr. Irving Schlotkin), Stephen Tobolowsky (Captain of the Guard), Dom DeLuise (voice of Pizza the Hutt)

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25th Anniversary Blu-ray 1-Disc DVD 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD Blu-ray + DVD Instant Video

It's no surprise that something as epically popular as Star Wars invited skewering. What is kind of surprising is that we had to wait until 1987 to get a full-blown parody feature,
years after Return of the Jedi had concluded what was then easily the most successful trilogy in film history.

If someone had to make a Star Wars spoof, one of the more agreeable people to do so was Mel Brooks. In the 1980s, Brooks was, as he is now, revered as comedy royalty. He had already put his spin on classic horror (Young Frankenstein), westerns (Blazing Saddles), Broadway (The Producers), silents (Silent Movie), Hitchcock (High Anxiety), and epics (History of the World: Part I). Spaceballs gave him a chance to have fun with the blend of state-of-the-art science fiction and classic matinee adventure that had made George Lucas richer and more powerful than he ever could have imagined.

Spaceballs' opening moments reveal it to be a knowledgeable and affectionate send-up of Lucas' blockbusters. There is the swelling John Williams-esque score. There is the expository crawl into the stars. There is a long pan across a ship slowly gliding in space. Brooks stays fairly true to the source material, creating a counterpart for every significant lead character save for Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

In a sequence reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz", the four heroes of "Spaceballs" -- Lone Starr (Bill Pullman), Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), Dot Matrix, and Barf (John Candy) -- cautiously make their way to the great and powerful Yogurt.

Rick Moranis is Dark Helmet, a short guy dressed in black who puts on a deep voice and inspires fear in those in his midst because a ring he possesses allows him to shoot a laser at the crotch of any trooper who disappoints him. The evil plan of Helmet and President Skroob (Brooks) is to steal all of the air from neighbor planet Druidia, enough to sustain millennia of life on Planet Spaceball.

On Druidia, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) is about to marry Prince Valium (Jim J. Bullock), a man for whom she holds no feelings. The princess ditches her betrothed at the altar, with C3PO-ish droid of honor Dot Matrix (played by Lorene Yarnell, but voiced by Joan Rivers) at her side. They take flight and soon face threat from Spaceball. The endangered runaway bride and her companion are rescued by dashing hero for hire Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his mawg (half-man, half-dog) Barf (John Candy).

As you can imagine, the plot is largely a vehicle for jokes and for laughing at the places and personalities of Lucas' saga. Fulfilling Yoda duties is the Yiddish golden guru Yogurt (also Brooks). Instead of Jabba the Hutt, we get Pizza the Hutt, a living pile of pizza (voiced by Dom DeLuise). Where Luke is instructed to use the Force, Lone Starr and company are taught to unleash the power of the Schwartz.

Rick Moranis plays the short but feared villain Dark Helmet. The wise golden Yogurt (Mel Brooks) demonstrates the power of merchandising with Spaceballs: The Flame Thrower.

Spaceballs manages to be likable without being all that funny. Comedy films, particularly spoofs, generally live and die on the strength of their jokes. Many of the gags scripted by Brooks and his two co-writers, Broadway veteran Thomas Meehan (Annie, Hairspray) and "M*A*S*H" scribe Ronny Graham (a duo that had recently written the To Be or Not to Be remake starring Brooks and his wife Ann Bancroft), fall flat now, whether or not they did a quarter-century again. Crotch hits, phallic puns, and riffs on Judaism ("Druish princess") are not comedy gold.

The film has more success when it breaks the fourth wall. It allows characters to shoot knowing looks at the audience. It lampoons rampant merchandising, a market that has become exponentially more significant to filmmaking. And it has fun with the nature of popcorn cinema, from consulting the movie via "instant cassettes" (a joke, which like the oh-so-'80s soundtrack, does date the film) to bits involving stunt doubles, sci-fi sound effects, action figures, and a sequel reference.
While Star Wars is by far the central target (and there is enough in Lucas' original trilogy to fill this movie several times over), a few other properties also factor into the fun, including "Star Trek", Lawrence of Arabia, Alien, and Planet of the Apes.

The cast includes two of the era's most amiable comic performers in Candy and Moranis, neither of whom made another all-out spoof such as this. The straighter and then less-known leads Pullman and Zuniga are charismatic fits for their parts. And the subject matter was certainly Brooks' most timely and, as a result, his most broadly appealing. Star Wars fans no doubt have a sense of humor and those who aren't crazy about that franchise might enjoy some laughs at its expense, even though Brooks doesn't seem to have anything resembling a criticism or mean-spirited barb about Lucas' industry-changing crowd-pleasers.

Barf (John Candy) turns the tables on Spaceball troopers by returning their laser fire back towards them. "Alien" star John Hurt (John Hurt) gets a visit from an unwelcome intestinal guest.

Spaceballs grossed a respectable $38 million in the summer of 1987, ranking it 31st among the year's releases at the box office. The equivalent of $78 million today, that was still a far cry from the inflation-adjusted totals of Brooks' hugely successful earlier efforts Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, but the film has fared very well on home video.

The PG assigned to Spaceballs is one of the more questionable ratings issued by the MPAA following the introduction of PG-13. The movie has quite a bit of profanity, not to mention some pretty clear innuendo. Many parents won't mind sharing this film with their younger kids, especially if those kids are familiar with the original Star Wars trilogy, but clearly a PG rating in the 1980s was not comparable to the ones slapped on most animated feature films today.

Spaceballs has been one of the stronger sellers in MGM's Fox-distributed film library. That is evident from the fact that the movie this week received its third Blu-ray edition. This new release, fittingly labeled The 25th Anniversary Edition, is only the film's second BD authored (the first was sold on its own and alongside a DVD copy starting in 2009). While I can't compare the two BD feature presentations, I can tell you that this one offers gains in the special features department. Read on for all the details.

Spaceballs: The 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (French, Spanish), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 7, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Still available as Original Blu-ray ($19.99 SRP; May 10, 2011), 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD ($19.98 SRP; May 3, 2005) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as Blu-ray + DVD (June 16, 2009), Double Feature 2-DVD Set with Robin Hood: Men in Tights (February 6, 2007), 1-Disc DVD (April 25, 2000), Widescreen VHS (May 27, 1997) and VHS (May 27, 1997)


I suspect that Spaceballs looks better on this Blu-ray than it ever has or at least since its first theatrical showings. The 1.85:1 transfer is quite terrific, especially considering the film's age. The element stays sharp, mostly clean, and detailed throughout, with the framing issues of its first DVD a distant memory and no other concerns arising.

The default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is also commendable. The film's sound design is a product of the oft-decorated Gary Rydstrom (of Spielberg and Pixar renown) and Randy Thom (whose career began with Lucas films including Episodes V and VI). Their work is easy to appreciate in this engulfing and directional mix, as is the occasional ambitious cue. Dialogue is crisp and substantial throughout, while volume stays at even levels. A number of dubs and subtitles are offered, including two alien languages covered below.

Mel Brooks reflects yet again on one of his most popular films in the brand new hi-def 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray featurette "Force Yourself! 'Spaceballs' and the Skroobing of Sci-Fi." Heard but not seen in the film, Joan Rivers is among the many proud cast and crew members appearing in 2005's "Spaceballs: The Documentary."


Originally released to DVD in 2000 with just three bonus features, Spaceballs was upgraded to a loaded Collector's Edition in 2005. The original Blu-ray retained most of those supplements and added to them. Now, this 25th Anniversary Edition BD retains and adds one more. Unless otherwise noted, the extras found here are presented in standard definition.

First up is a brand new featurette called "Force Yourself! Spaceballs and the Skroobing of Sci-Fi" (16:43, HD). Mel Brooks proudly reflects on his film, which is compared to Star Wars with clips from Lucas' movie. He recalls his fears of Lucas' reactions, his cast, and his own characters. Rudy DeLuca, the actor who played Vinnie the Robot, joins him briefly. It is limited in content but a lot of fun.

Next comes an audio commentary by Mel Brooks, recorded in 1996 for laserdisc. Not yet 70 and not nearly a widower, Brooks is lively and informative, acknowledging cast and crew as they show up or come to mind and mentioning their prior work that caught his attention. Among the most interesting revelations: Brooks greatly prefers writing to directing, Spaceballs was his most expensive movie, and Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic did the visual effects and were never offended. Co-writer Ronny Graham very briefly interjects.

"Spaceballs: The Documentary" (30:04) is a comprehensive retrospective from 2005. It benefits from a little bit of production footage and from considerable cast and crew participation. Interviewed here are Brooks, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, Joan Rivers, George Wyner, JM J. Bullock, Rudy De Luca, visual effects supervisor Peter Donen, director of photography Nick McLean, and makeup designer Ben Nye, Jr. Their memories are warm and specific as they discuss working with Brooks and the film's visual effects. There is some overlap with the commentary and the piece is dated by screens of text in space to supply facts and credits. Still, it's an excellent companion to the film.

"In Conversation: Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan" (20:30) lets the surviving two of the film's three writers recall their creative process and the jokes and ideas spawned from it. It feels like just two old friends talking, which may or may not be what you'd like.

Broadway legend and "Spaceballs" co-writer Thomas Meehan counters Mel Brooks lunacy in a friendly conversation. A touching clip from one of John Candy's lesser films in "John Candy: Comic Spirit."

"John Candy: Comic Spirit" (10:01) celebrates the late actor with warm remembrances from his Spaceballs co-stars, information from biographer Martin Knelman, archival footage of Candy, and excerpts of his MGM films (which sadly excludes most of his best works). It's a nice tribute to a man who clearly deserves it.

"Watch the Movie in Ludicrous Speed" (0:29) is a clever option that whizzes through the movie, though why it is pixelated I don't know.

An art gallery shows images like this groovy Bill Pullman painting both in natural and black light. Mel Brooks in a director's cap features in his memorable "Spaceballs" teaser trailer for exhibitors. Six Film Flubs shorts expose goofs like Captain Lone Starr's miraculously reappearing Schwartz ring.

Three Still Galleries offer production photos (65 images), costume sketches (18 images), and glow-in-the-dark and promotional artwork (24 images). The images are smaller than they ought to be, but the content is welcome.

Two Spaceballs trailers are included, the first a teaser for exhibitors that is introduced and hosted by Brooks (2:12) and the second a more ordinary but good theatrical preview (2:30).

Six "Film Flubs" shorts run under 30 seconds each, which makes the lack of a "Play All" option slightly troubling. Each plays a clip from the film in letterboxed 1.33:1, slowing down and placing blue arrows over the IMDb-worthy continuity goofs.

Harold Michelson's storyboards are compared to the final film. The Blu-ray's menu cleverly fast-forwards through much of the film, paralleling both a gag in the movie and a bonus feature.

A Storyboards-to-Film Comparison (6:40) uses split-screen to compare Harold Michelson's crude drawings to the corresponding sequences in the final film, with some remote control graphics fast-forwarding ahead.

Finally, a couple of joke dubs are provided under the Set Up heading, presenting a scene in Mawgese (the language of Mawgs) (0:33) and Dinkese (the language of Dinks) (0:28). A text screen explains why each is so short.

Completists will almost be satisfied with the supplements assembled here: three DVD extras miss the cut. The first casualty is a 9-minute promotional making-of featurette from the film's original 2000 DVD release (the one packaged alongside the Blu-ray Disc). It is no doubt improved upon by more recent retrospectives, though it sounds like it might have offered more of the production footage we only get glimpses of here. From the two-disc 2005 Collector's Edition set, we lose "Spacequotes", a disposable collection of character lines that made the previous Blu-ray, and, more regrettably, a trivia game that did not.
You would need to have three releases of the film to own every Spaceballs supplement available on disc, though you probably won't be attached enough to want to do that. Despite all that is included here, there is ample space on the disc to have included these dropped features.

The lack of any mention to or representation of 2008's "Spaceballs: The Animated Series" is a bit strange, but based on its poor reception and short-livedness, not all that surprising.

The cool menu fast-forwards through the movie, stopping on highlights. Unlike most Fox Blu-rays, this one does not support bookmarks or allow you to resume playback.

The tasteful new cover art employed on this edition is actually an ever so slight reworking of the film's original poster art. It is not recreated in a slipcover or an insert within the eco-friendly keepcase. While many studios have given up on creative disc art, this one deserves mention for its imaginative label which wraps "May the Schwartz Be With You" around the central hole and features light emerging from a ring at the top.

Captain Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) uses Dark Helmet's height and helmet to keep his Schwartz away from him. "Spaceballs"' answer to Jabba the Hutt? Pizza the Hutt, voiced by Dom DeLuise.


Spaceballs is less funny than fun, which should be a major problem for a parody film. Nonetheless, Mel Brooks' juvenile Star Wars send-up remains easy to like and a good time. This 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is just about the film's definitive release, offering a fantastic feature presentation and a hearty slate of supplements. This probably doesn't offer a tremendous upgrade over the movie's previous Blu-ray and some may prefer to get the edition that includes the DVD. But for any hi-def household that appreciates the film, this is a solid and recommended purchase.

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Spaceballs Songs List (in order of use): Jellybean - "Spaceballs", Kim Carnes and Jeffrey Osborne - "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own", Berlin - "Heartstrings", Van Halen - "Good Enough", Bon Jovi - "Raise Your Hands", The Pointer Sisters - "Hot Together", Ladyfire - "Wanna Be Loved by You"

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Reviewed August 9, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1987 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Brooksfilms and 2012 MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.