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‘Spaceballs’ 4K Ultra HD movie review



Mel Brooks surprisingly idiotic parody of space fantasy and sci-fi films finally debuts in the ultra-high definition format and packed with extras in Spaceballs (Kino Lorber, Rated PG, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 96 minutes, $39.95).

My first viewing of the film back in 1987 had me shaking my head and asking, was this really created by the guy known for “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers?”

Accessible mainly to 10-year olds, the laughs were always a bit too stale and far between for me, the dialogue forced and too many crotch jokes as his mainly “Star Wars” skewering unfolded.

However, one can’t blame the cast.

Mr. Brooks pulled together an eclectic group of legends and eventual legends led by Rick Moranis as Darth Helmet, Bill Pullman as the cocky space pilot Lone Star, Joan Rivers as droid Dot Matrix, John Candy as the man dog Barf, Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa and Dick Van Patten as King Roland,

The story found the citizens of planet Spaceball out of air and looking to extort the precious commodity from the peace-loving Druidia by taking its Princess Vespa hostage. It’s up to Lone Star and Barf to save the day with some help from Yogurt and the mystical power of the Schwartz.

Viewers will wince at groaners such as Lone Star remarking, “just what we need a Druish Princess (rim shot please), or watching minions combing the desert using giant ACE combs or taking Darth Helmet’s flag ship Spaceball One to “ludicrous speed.” It also featured one of the worst theme songs ever written called, of course, “We’re the Spaceballs,” sung by the famed Spinners.

However, the humor did have a smattering of the creator’s more subversive and laugh out loud moments.

Take Mr. Brooks as the wise merchandiser Yogurt, dressed as Yoda, or an appearance by John Hurt and his best Alien buddy and even a quick homage to “Planet of the Apes.”

The film needed much more of that kind of lunacy showing off Mr. Brooks’ chops as the clever parodist.

4K in action: By far, the best-looking version of “Spaceballs” that has ever existed in the galaxy shows an immediate payoff in the purposely overlong pass by of the longest spaceship in the history of movies, the Spaceball One.

The incredibly uptick in clarity allows viewers to examine every piece of plastic taken from model kits and stuck on the ship, especially later on when it transforms into Mega-maid with a vacuum.

Other moments to notice is the detail on Lone Star’s Eagle 5 flying Winnebago, a disgusting Pizza the Hutt with too realistic oozing cheese and sauce, and an outdoor desert scene on the moon of Vega.

The sandy action showcases clarity and color shading subtle enough to have Barf in his beige outfit clearly standout in the sand while set against a crisp blue sky.

Suffice it to report, home theater connoisseurs will want this version of “Spaceballs” for their collection.

Best extras: The 4K disc only offers a vintage but rather amusing optional commentary track from Mr. Brooks, with occasional giggling from co-writer Ronnie Graham.

It has him first lamenting about not working with enough Jews; laughing at his actors in action; telegraphing the plot and reminding us that “poor jokes work for me”; and how proud he was of the collection of cheap jokes and how the special effects cost about $100.

Frankly, the legend’s commentary is often funnier than the movie.

Next is all of the extras from the 2012, 25th anniversary Blu-ray release (mostly culled from the 2005 DVD release) found on the included Blu-ray version of the film.

Start with 17-minutes with Mr. Brooks focused on the Star Wars comparisons highlighted by his amusing interview improvisation and follow the featurette up with a vintage 30-minute production segment with interviews from many of the cast and crew and plenty from the director that covers story themes, casting, special effects, costuming, make-up and cinematography.

Also important is a 21-minute historically significant conversation between Mr. Brooks and co-writer of “Spaceballs” Thomas Meehan. They discuss the writing process, as often critically explained by Mr. Brooks. His decades of insight makes the segment mandatory.

Finally, viewers can fondly remember comedian John Candy in a 10-minute segment offering a brief glimpse of his too short life and supplemented by interviews with him as well as acting friends and peers.

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