The Set of 400: #198 – My Favorite Plaid Light Show

Today! Because that’s the same combination I have on my luggage!

Spaceballs (1987)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x2)

Starring Bill Pullman (x2), Daphne Zuniga, John Candy (x6), Rick Moranis (x2), Mel Brooks (x2), George Wyner (x3), Dick Van Patten (x3), Joan Rivers, Michael Winslow, Jim J. Bullock (x2), Dom DeLuise (x4), John Hurt (x2), Leslie Bevis, Stephen Tobolowsky (x4), Jack Riley, Rudy De Luca, Rick Ducommun (x3)

No higher than the fourth best Mel Brooks movie (no higher, I tell you!), Spaceballs is the one that landed squarely on my generation, and functioned as a decent balm for the end of the Star Wars trilogy. I doubt that was the intention – was Young Frankenstein supposed to be the missing eleventh Mary Shelley adaptation that never was? – but when I was a kid, I was starved for more Jedis and Wookies and droids, plus I liked comedy, so Spaceballs fit nicely. Realize, I was like three and a half when Return of the Jedi came out, so I don’t remember a world before that – new Star Wars movies seemed like an impossible dream, even by the time I was eight, so what if a couple of ex-SCTVers and the governor from Blazing Saddles were in it – this was essentially another, albeit twisted, chapter.

It takes things in an arguably better direction than Attack of the Clones, anyway

And it holds up pretty well! The cast is great – even if the comic stars do tend to outshine the Bill Pullmans and the Daphne Zunigas in the bunch. Rick Moranis is never better than with his ragey, paranoid Dark Helmet, and John Candy is typically hilarious as the man/dog hybrid Barf (“I’m my own best friend!”). But reflect for a second – is his character’s name really ‘Barf’? Is there really a giant robot maid that vacuums the air off the surface of that planet? Is the sleepy, effeminate Prince Valium really the height of comedy? There’s a lot of this movie that I didn’t think hard about when I was a kid, or I didn’t care, but in retrospect…there’s a fair bit of pretty lazy jokery going on here.

Like, did audiences roar at this?

And that’s why this is no better than Mel’s fourth best movie, and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong. Hell, I think a case could be made that Spaceballs is fifth, or even sixth, but there are folks – mostly my generation – who hold this thing up as among his best. Incorrect! I attribute this to my eight year old outlook – that it functioned as a neat bridge to Star Wars future, even if the future turned out to be much further away than we knew. I remember stories would float when I was young about more Star Wars movies all the time, just tantalizingly out of reach. And this is also how Phantom Menace is on this list, I think. It weighed on me for so long that when it finally arrived, I over looked a lot. 

But I’m not here to rag on Spaceballs – hey, it cracked the 200! I still love this movie. Everyone loves Spaceballs, right? Even if you don’t care for Mel’s superior early films, you probably enjoy Lonestar and Pizza the Hutt and “I see your Schwartz is as big as mine!” It’s a comedy classic! And his Yoda character is named Yogurt! That’s funny…right?

It’s kinda funny

Whatever the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards was didn’t think so, burdening Spaceballs with its only significant nomination and win – Worst Picture of 1987! Now, I think I’ve written before that the Stinkers seem to have pretty poor taste in general, so this means nothing, but really, Spaceballs couldn’t have wrangled together something? Best Mr. Coffee Promo? Best Twelve Chairs shoutout? Best Marketing Tie-In Offer, for Spaceballs the Flamethrower?

This is Mel’s second directorial effort on the list – following #395 Robin Hood: Men in Tights – but given all the above ragging, it should come as no surprise that there are fully five of his films still to come. That’s right, Spaceballs is my sixth favorite Brooks film. Shut up!

There is no reason to be this angry about it.

The great John Candy becomes the third Six-Timer, following his roles in #287 Stripes, #326 Delirious, #373 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, #294 1941, and #357 JFK, joining Pete Venkman and Eight-Timer Tony Stark in the exclusive club. We’ve also got two new Four-Timers – Dom DeLuise (Men in Tights, #282 Johnny Dangerously, #273 Cheap Detective) and Stephen Tobolowsky (#347 Memento, #378 Sneakers, #389 Memoirs of an Invisible Man) – and three new Three-Timers – Ducommun (#325 Gremlins 2, #223 Die Hard), Van Patten (Men in Tights, #366 Freaky Friday), and Wyner (#367 A Serious Man, #284 Bad News Bears), along with assorted new Two-Timers.

His name’s Barf! Sure, that’s kinda funny!

Coming tomorrow! Everything you touch turns to shit, you’re like king Midas’s idiot brother –


Filed under Movies

2 responses to “The Set of 400: #198 – My Favorite Plaid Light Show

  1. shortgirlnation

    “It’s my industrial strength hair dryer. AND I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT!” Explains everything about how I travel

  2. Pingback: The Set of 400: #199 – My Favorite Niagara Falls Excursion | Knowingly Undersold

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