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MGM Studios DVD presents
"I can't breathe in this thing!"
DVD ReviewSpaceballs was the turning point in writer/director Mel Brooks' career. After early successes with very funny films like Young Frankenstein, History of the World, Part I, and his masterpiece, Blazing Saddles, Brooks decided, in 1987 to take a stab at a genre that was screaming to be made fun of, science fiction. He actually focuses most of his jokes on the Star Wars films, but no film or franchise in the genre was safe from Brooks' comedic wrath.
I remember loving Spaceballs when I saw it at the theater and during subsequent home video viewings, but, sadly, it hasn't held up that well over the years. While still funny in a few spots, I didn't find myself rolling with laughter like I remember doing the first few times I viewed it. There are still some great bits that have held up, namely, the whole Dark Helmet character (wonderfully handled by Rick Moranis), the homage to Alien, complete with a cameo by John Hurt, and the classic joke about "combing the desert."
What doesn't work anymore is the Yogurt character (although the Dinks are still funny), Pizza the Hut (which was always gross, actually), and the whole conversion of Dark Helmet's ship into the "air-sucking" vacuum cleaner. That self-destructing evil lair/vehicle was done so much better in the Austin Powers movies.
This isn't to say that Spaceballs isn't an enjoyable, nostalgic film still. It's just that it shouldn't be as highly regarded on Mel Brooks' résumé as it used to be, although he hasn't made an even remotely funny movie since. After Spaceballs was a moderate box-office success, things pretty much went downhill for Brooks creatively. Following this space opus, he made the groan-inducing Robin Hood: Men in Tights and even worse, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which were box office and critical disasters, and rightfully so.
The acting in Spaceballs is a mixed bag too. The veteran performers have a great time with the material, with Moranis, Brooks, and the late John Candy delivering some of their best film work. Daphne Zuniga is laughingly awful as Princess Vespa, always over-delivering her lines like a prissy, spoiled princess should. It's Bill Pullman that is almost impossible to watch now as Lonestar. Granted, this is one of his first film roles, and, years later, we now know that he is a fine actor, but he hams it up so much here that his inexperience, even in a satirical comedy, shows a bit too much.
Good old Michael Winslow (Jones from the Police Academy movies) makes a very funny appearance, utilizing his incredible voice to tell us all about the malfunctioning noises on his instrument panel, and Ronny Graham is unforgettable as the wedding minister. Plus, JM J. Bullock fans rejoice! He shows up as Vespa's very sleepy, would-be husband, Prince Valium.
Brooks' direction is pretty standard movie-parody fare, but he does utilize whatever special effects budget he had to the fullest extent possible. While this great video transfer makes it easier to see just how "fake" some of these effects truly are, there are some nice shots that are even comparable to those in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: This new 1.85:1 anamorphic (for the first time on home video) widescreen transfer is galaxies beyond the one used for the previous Spaceballs DVD. Image detail is consistently impressive, from the large spaceships to the smallest costume texture. The colors are well rendered, with natural fleshtones and solid blacks, along with excellent shadow detail. Compression seems to have been handled brilliantly, but this has probably been helped by the addition of a second DVD to house the extras. The only real visual problems are a few specks of dirt and some grain, both of which are easy to overlook given the age of the film.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: There's new and improved audio as well, with the inclusion of both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks. Both tracks are basically identical, but both are a marked improvement over previous home video versions. Usually, there's a slight difference between the two, whether it's more bass presence or increased dynamic range, but in this case, I didn't notice a single discrepancy between the DD and DTS mixes. Both feature tight, aggressive bass that brings the action sequences to life, yet, still could have had a bit more overall punch at times. The surrounds are very active in both tracks, with spaceships and laser blasts traveling appropriately across the soundfield. The music and dialogue work very well together, with John Morris' score never overwhelming the crisp dialogue.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Pink Panther
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Mel Brooks
Packaging: Keep Case
Disc 2 is packed with more extras, beginning with three making-of segments, including the 30-minute Spaceballs: The Documentary, a new piece featuring on-set footage and interviews with the principal cast and crew, including Brooks. In Conversation: Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan is a sit-down session with two of the writers of Spaceballs, during which they discuss their passion for the film and the films it spoofs. The very touching John Candy: Comic Spirit has more interviews with the cast, who reflects on what it was like working with the late comedian.
There are three Galleries, containing still photos of production, costumes, and artwork. A collection of Trailers from the feature (including the Exhibitor Trailer with an intro by Brooks) and other MGM releases are next, followed by a Storyboard-to-Film-Comparison of a few sequences in the film.
The best collection of extras is in the Fun & Games submenu. Sure, the ability to jump to a specific Spacequote from one of the characters is nice, and the Trivia Game is challenging enough, but the Film Flubs section is quite unique. Here, you can choose from six flubs, which are not only explained in text, but are also pointed out when the clip in question is played.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsSpaceballs can't hold a candle to Mel Brooks' classics like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, but it's still a funny way to spend an hour and a half. MGM Home Video has finally delivered the DVD goods for the film, spreading some very nice extras across two discs, and delivering impressively remastered audio and video as well.
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