Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
|Directed by||Mel Brooks|
|Produced by||Mel Brooks|
|Music by||John Morris|
|Edited by||Conrad Buff IV|
|Distributed by||MGM/UA Communications Co.|
|Box office||$38.1 million|
Spaceballs is a 1987 American satirical comic science fiction film co-written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks. Starring Brooks, Bill Pullman, John Candy and Rick Moranis, the film also features Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner and the voice of Joan Rivers. In addition to Brooks in a supporting role, the film also features Brooks regulars Dom DeLuise and Rudy De Luca in cameo appearances.
The film's setting and characters parody the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as other sci-fi franchises and popular films including Star Trek, Alien, The Wizard of Oz, 2001, and the Planet of the Apes. It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on June 24, 1987, and was met with a mixed reception. It has since become a cult classic and one of Brooks's most popular films.
Planet Spaceball, led by the incompetent President Skroob, has squandered all of its fresh air. Skroob schemes to force King Roland of the neighboring planet Druidia to give them the code to the shield that protects Druidia, allowing them to steal all their air, by kidnapping his daughter Princess Vespa on the day of her arranged marriage to the narcoleptic Prince Valium. Skroob sends the villainous Dark Helmet to complete this task with Spaceball One, an impossibly huge ship helmed by Colonel Sandurz. Before they can arrive, Vespa abandons her wedding and flees the planet in her Mercedes spaceship with her droid of honor, Dot Matrix.
Roland contacts mercenary Lone Starr and his mawg (half-man, half-dog) sidekick Barf, offering a lucrative reward to retrieve Vespa before she is captured. Lone Starr readily accepts, as he is in major debt with the gangster Pizza the Hutt. In their Winnebago spaceship, Eagle 5, Lone Starr and Barf are able to reach Vespa before Spaceball One, rescue both her and Dot, then escape. Spaceball One tries to follow at light-speed, but Helmet orders the ship to "ludicrous speed", causing it to overshoot the escapees by a large distance.
Out of fuel, Lone Starr is forced to crash-land on the nearby "desert moon of Vega". The escapees travel on foot in blazing sun and pass out. They are found by the Dinks, a group of diminutive sparkly brown-clad aliens, and are taken to a cave occupied by a sage named Yogurt. Yogurt introduces Lone Starr to "the Schwartz", a metaphysical power parodying the Force. Yogurt also introduces the audience to the film's merchandising campaign. Starr and Vespa begin to flirt, but Vespa insists she can only be married to a prince.
Helmet and Sandurz break the fourth wall by using a VHS copy of Spaceballs to discover Vespa's location, and Helmet orders Spaceball One to the moon. The Spaceballs capture Vespa and Dot, and return with them to planet Spaceball. Their captors threaten to reverse Vespa's nose job, forcing Roland to give the code to the shield that protects Druidia. Helmet and Sandurz take Spaceball One to Druidia, while Lone Starr and Barf rescue Vespa and Dot from the Spaceballs prison complex. When they arrive at Druidia, Spaceball One transforms into Mega Maid, a Statue of Liberty-like colossal robotic maid with a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum is then turned on, sucking the air off the planet. When the vacuum bag is almost full, Lone Starr uses the Schwartz to reverse the vacuum, blowing the air back onto the planet.
Once the air is returned to the planet, Lone Starr and his allies enter Mega Maid and attempt to destroy it. Lone Starr is forced to fight Helmet with lightsaber-like "Schwartz rings" near the ship's self-destruct button. Lone Starr defeats Helmet, causing him to involuntarily strike the button. Lone Starr and his friends escape the ship, while Skroob, Helmet, and Sandurz fail to reach any escape pods in time, trapping them in the robot's head as the ship explodes. They subsequently crash-land on a nearby planet, much to the chagrin of its Planet of the Apes-like population, and possibly giving a second meaning to that film's ending.
With Lone Starr's debt to Pizza nullified by the gangster's untimely death, he returns Vespa to Roland and leaves, taking only enough money to cover his expenses. After a lunch break at a diner, and a strange incident involving an alien and an astronaut similar to the events in Alien, Lone Starr finds a final message from Yogurt, informing him that he is a prince, and thus eligible to marry Vespa. He reaches Druidia in time to stop her wedding to Valium, announces his royal lineage, then marries Vespa.
- Bill Pullman as Lone Starr (based on Han Solo and Luke Skywalker)
- John Candy as Barf (based on Chewbacca)
- Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa (based on Princess Leia)
- Mel Brooks as Yogurt (based on Yoda) / President Skroob
- Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet (based on Darth Vader)
- Dick Van Patten as King Roland
- George Wyner as Colonel Sandurz (based on Grand Moff Tarkin)
- Michael Winslow as Radar Technician
- Dot Matrix (based on C-3PO) is portrayed by:
- Ronny Graham as Minister
- Jim J. Bullock as Prince Valium
- Leslie Bevis as Commanderette Zircon
- Jim Jackman as Major Asshole
- Sandy Helberg as Dr. Schlotkin
- Brenda Strong as Schlotkin's Nurse
- Rudy De Luca as Vinnie
- Dom DeLuise as the voice of Pizza the Hutt (based on Jabba the Hutt)
John Hurt makes a cameo appearance credited as himself, parodying his character Gilbert Kane's death in the film Alien (1979). Various actors and comedians appear in unnamed roles, with Sal Viscuso, Michael Pniewski, Stephen Tobolowsky, Robert Prescott, Tom Dreesen, Rick Ducommun, Rob Paulsen, Tommy Swerdlow and Tim Russ all appearing as soldiers of Dark Helmet. Additional unnamed appearances include Ronny Graham as the wedding minister, Dey Young as a waitress, Jack Riley as a newsman, Ken Olfson as the head usher, Bryan O'Byrne as an organist and Brenda Strong as a nurse. Denise Gallup as Charlene, Dian Gallup as Marlene, Ed Gale, Felix Silla, Tony Cox, Antonio Hoyos, Arturo Gil and John Kennedy Hayden appear as the Dinks (based on the Jawas).
When Brooks developed Spaceballs, he wanted his parody to be as close to the original as possible. Even though the Yogurt character (Mel Brooks) mentions merchandising in the film, Brooks's deal with George Lucas on parodying Star Wars was that no Spaceballs action figures be made. According to Brooks, "[Lucas] said, 'Your [action figures] are going to look like mine.' I said OK."
Brooks also had Lucas's company handle the post-production, saying, "I was playing ball with the people who could have said no." Lucas later sent Brooks a note saying how much he loved the film, including its story structure, and that he "was afraid [he] would bust something from laughing".
Pullman got the part of Lone Starr when Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft saw him in a play—he had never seen Star Wars prior to filming. Brooks had been unsuccessfully trying to sign on big-name actors such as Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks for the film. Pullman said,
I think [Mel] was hurt that they didn't take him up on it ... but then it attract[ed] two of the big comics at that time: John Candy and Rick Moranis. Once that was secured, then he said, "Heck, I'll get somebody nobody knows!" And I got a chance to do it.
Zuniga initially found Brooks's film parodies "too crass and not too funny", but after working with Brooks, she said, "I have this image of Mel as totally wacko and out to lunch. And he is. But he's also really perceptive, real sensitive in ways that make actors respond."
An official soundtrack was released on Atlantic Records on LP, CD, and cassette, featuring many of the songs heard in the film, as well as three score cues by frequent Brooks collaborator John Morris. The track list is as follows:
- "Spaceballs Main Title Theme" – John Morris
- "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" – Jeffrey Osborne and Kim Carnes; the song was made into a hit in 1990 by Sally Moore (U.S. AC #42).
- "Heartstrings" – Berlin
- "Spaceballs Love Theme" (Instrumental) – John Morris
- "The Winnebago Crashes"/"The Spaceballs Build Mega-Maid" – John Morris
- "Spaceballs" – The Spinners
- "Hot Together" – The Pointer Sisters
- "Good Enough" – Van Halen
- "Wanna Be Loved By You" – Ladyfire
- "Highway Star" – Deep Purple
- "Bohemian Rhapsody" – Queen
- "Raise Your Hands" (hidden track) – Bon Jovi
In 2006, La-La Land Records released Spaceballs - The 19th Anniversary Edition CD of the film's score, with bonus tracks of alternate takes and tracks not used in the film.
The film has received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reports that, as of 2020, 57% of critics have given positive reviews based on 40 reviews with an average rating of 6.39/10. The site's consensus reads; "There's fine spoofery and amusing characters in Spaceballs, though it's a far cry from Mel Brooks's peak era." At another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 46%, based on 14 reviews. Many critics agreed that, while it was funny, doing a Star Wars parody ten years after the original film had been released seemed pointless. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, and remarked "I enjoyed a lot of the movie, but I kept thinking I was at a revival…it should have been made several years ago, before our appetite for Star Wars satires had been completely exhausted."
Spaceballs was first made available on VHS and LaserDisc in February 1988; they were re-released in the late 1990s. The VHS edition was issued twice; the latter edition was presented in widescreen. Meanwhile, the laserdisc also gained a commentary track with Brooks; this was transferred over to the DVD and Blu-ray releases. The film was first released on DVD on April 25, 2000. This version also contained "the making of..." documentary and a collectible "making-of" booklet. The film was then released in the "Collectors Edition" on May 3, 2005. This edition contained more extras including the documentary and the video conversation about the making of the film with Brooks and Thomas Meehan. On August 7, 2012, the "25th Anniversary Edition" was released on Blu-ray containing many of the same bonus features as the 2005 DVD release with the addition of a new featurette.
Animated series and possible sequel
Moranis claimed in a 2013 interview that he and Brooks had discussed a potential sequel, with Moranis pitching the title Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II. However, he and Brooks were unable to structure a deal that would allow the project to move forward.
In February 2015, Brooks said that he would like to make a sequel to be released after the next Star Wars film and hopes that Moranis would reprise his role. This proposed film, Brooks said, may be called Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money.
However, in February 2020, Bill Pullman said during an interview with Daily Blast Live, "It's up to Mel. Ask him if he has too much money and that's why he doesn't do it."
Spaceballs has made an impact on popular culture and been used as a referent and inspiration in other properties.
Tesla Motors has used Spaceballs' starship speeds (Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed, Plaid Speed) as inspiration for naming their acceleration modes. In homage to Spaceballs, Tesla has Ludicrous Mode for acceleration beyond its Insane Mode, and Plaid Mode, overtop Ludicrous.
A 1⁄12-scale model of the Winnebago, Eagle 5, was auctioned on December 11, 2018. The model was created by film special effects designer, Grant McCune, who also created models for Star Wars and Star Trek. The model makes an appearance early in the film with the introduction of Barf and Lone Starr. The model, along with other special effects artifacts from then-current films such as Masters of the Universe and Jaws: The Revenge, was displayed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry in the summer of 1988.
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