'Spaceballs': THR's 1987 Review
On June 24, 1987, Mel Brooks launched Spaceballs in theaters. The Star Wars spoof, starring Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis and Daphne Zuniga, became infamous in its own right. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.
Space films are Mel Brooks’ latest target in this Star Wars parody that might be appropriately titled “Schtick Wars.”
You don’t have to be Jewish to be turned off by this movie, but it sure helps to understand the jokes. Science-fiction fans, never known for their sense of humor, will trickle out for an initial peek but, otherwise, box office for this wildly uneven MGM takeoff seems limited to young boys.
In the loony Brooks’ galaxy, a Druish princess (Daphne Zuniga) ditches her wedding to a Valiumed-out blue blood (Jim J. Bullock). Along with her trusty, Tin Man-type adviser (Joan Rivers’ voice), she zaps out in her Mercedes-like spacemobile only to be kidnapped by Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis). Also orbiting in this off-the-wall universe is a flying Winnebago, outfitted in bachelor-mold and messed by a scruffy Han Solo-type (Bill Pullman) and his trusty MAWG, half man/half dog (John Candy) — they’ve got their own problems with Pizza the Hut, an oozing loan shark.
While the story is way out there, the dialogue is marooned in the Borscht Belt — tired gags and routines keep Spaceballs manically earthbound. Where Brooks and co-writers Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham soar highest is with their visual gags — it’s hard to knock a movie that features a flying Winnebago loaded with beer cans.
Despite its often tired excesses, Brooks has concocted a loving and intermittently uproarious salute to the science-fiction genre, and there’s some wonderful stuff that’s so nuts that it could only be from Mel Brooks. Contributing to the good-humor look are the good sports at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic Company who provided postproduction. Apogee’s visual effects are highlighted by a preposterously massive spacecraft, giving the film a soaringly silly, opening scene send-off.
Spaceballs is one mission its players may want to forget: The ever-entertaining and talented John Candy is reduced to loping around in an outlandishly inflated jumpsuit and doggy ears. If they ever make a comedy titled “Butterballs,” Candy has his costume. Similarly, Hill Street Blues prosecutor George Wyner as the schleppy Colonel Sandurz also might have his performance stricken from the record.
In multiple appearances, Brooks is most entertaining as Yogurt, a golden-skinned, pointy-eared oracle into product merchandising. Yogurt’s newest product is instant cassettes, videos that appear in the stores before the movie is finished — in this case, MGM might have benefited from this marketing insight.
Technical credits are all kosher, with special nods to costumer Donfeld for the witty takeoffs on Star Wars wear and to production designer Terence Marsh for the daffy, out-of-orbit look. — Duane Byrge, first published on June 22, 1987