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SPACEBALLS
Collector's Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, voice of Joan Rivers
Director:  Mel Brooks
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  May 3, 2005

"Dim the lights."

"Dimming the lights!"

"Switch to infrared."

"Switching to infrared!"

"And pray to God..."

"Praying to God!"

Film **

Four years after the first Star Wars trilogy wrapped, Mel Brooks decided to delve into George Lucas' magic box and pull out a spoof.  I remember eating it up at the time it was in theatres, being both a Lucas fan and a Brooks fan, and having not had a good Star Wars fix in too many years.

Now that the world is overdosing on the return of Star Wars, fans can look at Spaceballs for what it really was...just another in a string of attempts to ridicule the groundbreaking franchise, and one that didn't quite distinguish itself from any other.

The story centers around some intergalactic nasty people known as the Spaceballs, who have used up all the air on their planet, and now plan to steal the atmosphere of Druidia.  So President Scroob (Brooks) sends his evil henchman Dark Helmet (Moranis) to kidnap the royal princess Vespa (Zuniga) on her wedding day.

But the Druish princess has her own ideas, fleeing the alter with her droid companion Dot Matrix (voice of Rivers).  Dark Helmet pursues, but a renegade space hero named Lone Starr (Pullman) and his Mog (half man, half dog) cohort Barf (Candy) aim to intervene...but can they rescue the princess and save Druidia, and leave enough set up for a sequel?

The movie is mostly a collection of gags, some better than others, wrapped around a flimsy string of a plot.  Watching it for the first time in ages, I was surprised at how little I really laughed.  The only bit that had me in hysterics was near the end of the film, and it involved a cameo by John Hurt...I'll say no more.

The cast is mostly spirited, but Brooks and company seem to be trying too hard to please.  The result is a moderately amusing diversion, but not something anyone could call a classic comedy.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Mime great Lorene Yarnell was the physical embodiment of Dot Matrix.

Video ***1/2

The Schwartz was with MGM and this terrific anamorphic transfer, beating the rap that 80s films usually get when they go to DVD.  This is a clean, colorful, and well detailed presentation with no noticeable effects of age or wear.  Colors look natural throughout, and the space scenes, which are sometimes problematic in digital form, look crisp and real.  A slight touch of grain is noticeable here and there, but nothing major.

Audio ***

The 5.1 soundtrack is good, with a fair amount of dynamic range and plenty of business coming from the rear stage throughout.  The subwoofer isn't utilized much, but I didn't miss it as much as I would have thought.

Features ****

The extras really make this double disc set a fun package...for starters, the menu screens are terrific, designed to spoof the now-famous screens of the Star Wars DVDs!

Disc One features a commentary by Mel Brooks, who shares his memories with great warmth and humor.  And for the attention impaired, you have the option to watch the entire movie in ludicrous speed, reducing 90 minutes to about 30 seconds.

Disc Two begins with your choice of three consoles to navigate, and each one has some amusing and easy to find Easter eggs (my favorite was the Star Schmuck's coffee).  A new documentary features new cast and crew interviews and a look at the filming, special effects and other processes.  There is also a conversation with Mel Brooks and co-writer Thomas Meehan, and a loving tribute to the late John Candy.

There are film flubs that have to be accessed one at a time (as opposed to a straight out gag reel), a trivia game, a "space quotes" extra set up like a virtual See n' Say so you can hear your favorite lines, art, costume and photo galleries, storyboard-to-film comparisons, and a pair of trailers including Mel's original one presented to theatre owners.

Summary:

Mel Brooks is a comedy genius, but Spaceballs rarely flies.  This special edition DVD from MGM will please the devoted fans, and is even worth a glance for the casual admirer.

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