Spaceballs(MGM Home Entertainment, 5.3.2005)
Mel Brooks closed History of the World, Part I with clips from an imagined sequel, which included a sci-fi song-and-dance called "Jews in Space." Seven years later, Brooks made a feature-length movie out of that gag and called it, curiously, Spaceballs. It's no coincidence that the film generally considered the beginning of Brooks' nadir as a director also began the gradual dulling of his satiric instincts. What already must have seemed dated in 1987 -- some would argue that George Lucas made the first Star Wars parody in 1983 -- now barely feels connected with its sources of inspiration.
Whereas Young Frankenstein tweaked the psychosexual black comedy that made James Whale twitch and Blazing Saddles confronted racial stereotypes on and off the big screen, Spaceballs just spaces a few limp shout-outs to Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien geeks between even limper vaudevillian gags.
None of the barbs draw any real blood, maybe because Brooks doesn't have much to say about the genre besides its mass market appeal ("Spaceballs: The T-shirt," "Spaceballs: The Placemat"), but mostly because only Rick Moranis, as the endlessly frustrated Dark Helmet, makes any real impression as a character.
You wouldn't know that from the lavishly self-congratulatory yet incredibly skimpy extras spaced out over two discs in the new Spaceballs Collector's Edition. Brooks' dated audio commentary -- he mentions just finishing the decade-old Dracula: Dead and Loving It -- switches from loving praise for his cast and crew to rote descriptions of what's happening in the movie.
His "In Conversation" discussion with meeker co-writer Thomas Meehan isn't any more revelatory, mostly consisting of Brooks shouting over Meehan about plot points and joke origins. In addition to catching up with most of the cast (no Moranis), "Spaceballs: The Documentary" also pays ample tribute to a Brooks hallmark -- parodies that rise to the visual demands of replicating a genre -- and the immensely talented people behind the scenes who made the production design so spot-on.
We also get trailers, an art gallery, storyboard-to-screen comparisons, remembering John Candy, and a lame trivia game. There are no surprises and very little fun on these DVDs. That goes for the movie too. -- Joey Tayler