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SPACEBALLS
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, voice of Joan Rivers
Director:  Mel Brooks
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  MGM
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes
Release Date:  June 16, 2009

"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 has had its chance to overdose 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

Space themed movies tend to look quite nice in high definition, and this Blu-ray of Spaceballs follows that form well.  The transfer is clean, with solid and natural looking colors and crisp, well-defined images throughout.  There are some minor instances of noticeable grain, but overall, this is definitely one of the better looking offerings from the 80s on disc. 

Audio ***1/2

Thanks to DTS HD audio, Spaceballs sounds more alive on Blu-ray than in any previous incarnation.  There is plenty of dynamic range thanks to the comedic action, effects and music.  The surrounds bring the space flight scenes to vivid, clear life, and the subwoofer, though only occasionally employed, adds some boom to the battles.  Dialogue is clean and rendered nicely in the midst of the mix.

Features ****

This is a nicely loaded double disc combo, including both a DVD and a Blu-ray version of the movie.  Most of the extras are with the Blu-ray, including a commentary by Mel Brooks, who shares his memories with great warmth and humor.  Or, if you really have nothing better to do, you can opt for a commentary track in either Mawgese or Dinkese, though I'm guessing neither one of those languages will reach the status of Klingon among sci-fi fans.  And for the attention impaired, you have the option to watch the entire movie in ludicrous speed, reducing 90 minutes to about 30 seconds.

A 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), art, costume and photo galleries, storyboard-to-film comparisons, and a pair of trailers including Mel's original one presented to theatre owners.

The DVD also features Mel's commentary, the trailer, and some behind-the-scenes footage.

Summary:

Mel Brooks is a comedy genius, but Spaceballs rarely flies.  For fans, though, there's never been a better way to experience the movie than with this quality Blu-ray offering from MGM.

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