Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spaceballs invade your Blu-ray player

Spaceballs is not Mel Brooks' funniest movie, nor his most well made. Yet, it holds a special place in the hearts of many, many fans, a highly quotable (and enjoyable) film that can be watched over and over again. Primarily spoofing Star Wars, it's a comedy set in space, with plenty of references mixed in with the jokes. Now, it is available as a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray.

The story of Spaceballs is familiar. That's not to say that it rips the plot directly from Star Wars, as it only loosely follows that story, leaving out the pathos and the Luke Skywalkers. But Star Wars didn't tell an original tale, either. Both are the hero's journey, rescuing a damsel in distress, and defeating a powerful villain to save the larger world, done in similar ways.

Lone Starr (Bill Pullman, Torchwood: Miracle Day) is that hero, though the damsel, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga, One Tree Hill), as in many modern versions of the story, is anything but helpless. Because this is a comedy, they are joined by the half man, half dog, Barf (John Candy, Planes, Trains & Automobiles), and a sassy robot named Dot Matrix (voiced by comedian Joan Rivers). Together, this group consults the "wise" Yogurt (Mel Brooks), and battles the forces of darkness, led by the bumbling Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis, Ghost Busters) and President Skroob (also Brooks). The best part? No endless sequels!

It will come as no surprise when the good guys win the day, and the baddies get what they deserve. Yet, that isn't the point of the movie. The plot is secondary to the humor, which comes in many ways, some of them unexpected. Whether it's a giant vacuum cleaner in space, or something more clever, like the play on merchandising, and the bad guys being able to fast forward and rewind the movie to see where the protagonists have gone, Spaceballs delivers in spades. Perhaps the jokes aren't as good as in other movies, but they are memorable, and many fans quote them incessantly.

For this new edition, there has been an update in picture and sound quality. It still looks dated, especially in the special effects department, which admittedly doesn't matter all that much. But it isn't very grainy most of the time, and is certainly good enough to engross viewers without them being distracted by fuzz.

Most of the special features are from past editions, including audio commentary (available in English, Mawgese, and Dinkese), a documentary, conversations with Mel Brooks, a tribute to the late Candy, flubs, galleries, and trailers. Some of the previous extras have been left off, so this isn't a comprehensive release, either. But there is one new featurette, a little over fifteen minutes in length, that provides a bit of new insight into the film, with the benefit of additional hindsight.

The bottom line is, most fans of Spaceballs already own this movie. Should they buy it again? That depends. If one's copy is an old VHS or even an early DVD, lacking the remastered quality, and it is still pulled out to be watched at least occasionally, then yes, for a modest price, one should definitely upgrade to Blu-ray. However, if one already owns the previous Blu-ray release, purchasing this edition only nets one new feature, so it's probably worth it only for the most die-hard of fans. It's a great release, but it could be better with a few more treats tossed in for the fans.

Spaceballs The 25th Anniversary Edition is on sale now.

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