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Blu-ray Review: Spaceballs

What’s there to say about Spaceballs that hasn’t already been said? Not much, really—except for the fact that I have seen the movie so many times that it doesn’t even make me laugh anymore. It used to, though. There was a time when it could have me it stitches. But, after repeated viewings at work (there was one lad in particular who used to play it continuously at the video store I once managed) and at home (courtesy of my daughter and her then-fascination with science fiction films), I am sad to say that Spaceballs has etched away an empty crevice into my funny bone.

One cannot deny the movie its right in comedic cinema, however. Mel Brooks did a very fine job spoofing the science fiction genre of the time. He even splurged a bit for this one, giving the movie a substantially larger budget for Spaceballs than you’d expect from him normally. Spaceballs has some very lovely (and big) sets, spaceship models (hey, you remember those, George Lucas?), and even some state-of-the-art (for the time) special effects from a few Star Wars alumni.

The cast is also to thank for the movie’s popularity. Aside from Brooks himself (in two roles), Spaceballs also benefits from Rick Moranis giving his all as villain Dark Helmet; John Candy as the half-man/half-dog Barf; and a rather new face at the time, Bill Pullman, as the hero. George Wyner delivers his most famous part to date (and perhaps for all time) as Helmet’s sidekick Colonel Sandurz (really, how could one resist creating a name like that—it’s as good as General Delivery or Corporal Punishment), with Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, Michael Winslow and the voice of Joan Rivers turning in memorable performances, too.

Although the humor in Spaceballs is very Mel Brooks, many of the jokes fall flat (I even felt that way when I still laughed at the jokes), and some the two second silences that follow the gags seem to go on for about two seconds too long. But, of course, I’m just nitpicking now. The real case at hand here is that Spaceballs is at last on Blu-ray from MGM Home Entertainment. The movie is presented in its original widescreen ratio (1.85:1) and the new 1080p MPEG-4 AVC High Def transfer really stands out from the previous DVD incarnations. Grain is still noticeable (particularly in the darker scenes), but for the most part is nonexistent. The colors are much brighter than we’ve seen in the past (such as that old DVD from 2000).

One of the most outstanding things about this new Blu-ray is the variety of language options present. Normally, North American Blu-ray discs have English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese (if you’re lucky). This one features all of those plus a few more: German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, and Hungarian. The English options include the original Stereo and a new 5.1 DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio (which is a blast and much better than most of the other recent “re-mixes” I’ve heard on BD). The other tracks are in either 5.1 DTS or 5.1 Dolby Digital. Even the subtitle options are increased here, too: English (SDH), French, Portuguese, Spanish (Latin and Castilian), Italian, German, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish, too. That’s certainly more than we saw on the old DVDs from 2005 or 2000.

Speaking of that old DVD from 2000, it’s included here as the bonus disc (although as to why is anyone‘s guess). Side A of the DVD contains a low-quality non-anamorphic widescreen transfer (taken from the 1996 laserdisc issue) of the film that everybody fussed over (the framing was wrong, ruining a major gag in the process), while the flipside features the Pan & Scan version. Thanks, but no thanks.

The Blu-ray disc contains several extras, all of which have been recycled from one previous home video version of or another. The boring audio commentary with Mel Brooks and the late Ronny Graham from the laserdisc is still present. Three featurettes include of “Spaceballs: The Documentary” (30:04), “In Conversation: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan” (20:30), and “John Candy: Comic Spirit” (10:02). Additional goodies are the option to “Watch The Movie In Ludicrous Speed” (which, despite its thirty-second runtime, is nonetheless the only special feature to be in High Def), a “Storyboard-To-Film Comparison” (6:41), several galleries, two trailers, and a few “Film Flubs” that point out obvious faults in the movie. An additional behind-the-scenes featurette can be found on the old DVD.

Love it or hate it, Spaceballs has most assuredly become a cult classic. And it deserves that honor. I do enjoy the film—really, I do—but its charm wore off a long time ago for me. Nevertheless, I am glad to see it in High Def—and this Blu-ray is a must.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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