It was my turn to present this week, and I figured that I’d try to go with something a bit lighter – enter Spaceballs, the 1987 Mel Brooks parody of the Star Wars franchise.  And just for good measure, I went ahead and led in with yet another Star Wars parody short, in this case the longish Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode II from 2008.  Now, due to rights issues I don’t think we can actually find the full thing online, AND it’s like 38 minutes, but here’s a short clip – the whole thing is largely unconnected segments anyway.

As for Spaceballs.  Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a lot to say about the movie in terms of a review – it’s not exactly the kind of plot-driven film that provokes a lot of thought (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I mean *I* presented the damn thing!)  But here goes with what will probably be a pretty thorough rehash of the plot, such as it is.

Due to the planet Spaceball squandering its air supply, the incompetent President Skroob comes up with a plan to kidnap the Princess Vespa from the planet Druidia, intending to ransom her in exchange for Druidia lowering its air shield so the Spaceballs can steal the air.

This plan is aided by the fact that Princess Vespa, reduced to marrying the last remaining prince in the universe (and one hell of a bore), skips out on her wedding and flees with her golden robot chambermaid Dot Matrix to nowhere in particular.

Vespa’s father, King Roland, contacts the space-Winnebago jockey Lone Starr (played by a then-unknown Bill Pullman) and his loyal companion Barf and asks them to track down Vespa in exchange for a reward.  Lone Starr, Roland says, is her only hope, which means the picking must really be slim in this universe.  Seeing as Lone Starr owes money to Pizza the Hutt, he’s happy to take up the offer.  Barf, by the way, is a Mog – half man and half dog – which means he’s his own best friend (then again, aren’t we all?)

Lone Starr shows up just in time to find Vespa caught in the tractor beam of Spaceball One, commanded by the evil Dark Helmet, a wielder of the magic of The Schwartz.  They rescue Vespa via escape ladder (outer space is apparently not a vacuum in this universe) and jump to light speed in order to escape the Spaceballs.  Dark Helmet orders Spaceball One to go to Ludicrous Speed (and eventually to “Plaid”), causing them to overshoot Lone Starr.

Meanwhile Lone Starr runs out of fuel and is forced to put down on a desert planet.  While Lone Starr and Princess Vespa argue (and are obviously falling in love – a doomed proposition as she is constrained to only marry a prince) they come across the lair of Yogurt, another Schwartz-master.

Yogurt instructs Lone Starr in the ways of The Schwartz (as well as the ways of marketing) and gives him a magic Schwartz ring as well as a magic fortune cookie.  However, just before they’re about to leave Yogurt’s planet, Dark Helmet manages to kidnap Vespa and Dot Matrix, and uses their captivity to force King Roland to give up the code to the planet’s air shield.  (The code, of course, is 1-2-3-4-5, which sounds like something an idiot – or President Skroob – would have on their luggage.)

Spaceball One flies to Druidia, where it transforms into MegaMaid, complete with a gigantic vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of Druidia’s atmosphere.  Lone Starr arrives just in time, uses The Schwartz to switch MegaMaid from suck to blow, boards the ship, rescues Vespa and Dot, and duels with Dark Helmet.  In the course of the duel, Dark Helmet accidentally activates the ship’s self-destruct button, leading to a free-for-all escape which results in Druidia’s atmosphere being restored, Lone Starr successfully returning Vespa and Dot to their home, and Skroob and Dark Helmet landing on a beach on some remote planet in MegaMaid’s head, Planet of the Apes style.

Lone Starr quickly leaves Druidia (not even taking his reward, which is OK because in the meantime Pizza the Hutt has eaten himself to death) due the hopelessness of having a relationship with Vespa, but eventually opens Yogurt’s fortune cookie, which reveals that Lone Starr, too, is an honest-to-god prince – see, that’s what the mysterious medallion that he has worn around his neck since his infant adoption indicates.  So Lone Starr returns to Druidia just in time to interrupt the wedding and take the place of the boring prince, and we all live happily ever after, until the possibly evitable sequel (“Spaceballs 2 – The Search For More Money” has been thrown about but never seems to materialize).

Again, the draw of the film is the comic side.  There are quite a number of great jokes in the film, as you would expect from Brooks.  The plot is not very tightly constructed.  For one, there are two separate scenes surrounding the initial attempted kidnap of Vespa where Dark Helmet is surprised that Lone Starr has shown up – presumably they both worked well enough that Brooks couldn’t decide which to cut, and kept both.  And of course, the whole plot is driven by the idea that planet Spaceball has used up their air supply, and that Druidia is the only place where they can get air.  But we visit at least two planets (Yogurt’s planet and the Planet of the Apes planet) that clearly have atmospheres and *no* air shield, which kind of cheapens the reason that the Spaceballs are targeting Druidia.  But, you know, that’s really neither here nor there as far as the film goes.  We’re really only in it for the laughs.

(As a side note – and this is very far to the side – several years ago the building I work in was having some serious issues with the fire alarm panel.  The fire alarm panel has its own alarm – which is not the fire alarm but is almost as annoying – that goes off whenever there’s something wrong with the system.  Seeing as the fire department was continually taking their sweet time to come and disarm the panel on sort of a weekly basis, eventually I decided to take matters into my own hands and try tinkering with the fire alarm panel myself rather than have the damn thing go off for 45 minutes while we waited for the proper authorities to show up.  I figured out the interface to the panel, but in order to silence the alarm, there was a code.  I shrugged my shoulders and began entering numbers: 1-2-3-4…nothing…5…nothing…6 – and the alarm shut off!  I kid you not.  This code was like something some idiot would have on his luggage.  In fact, I was so shocked by this that I couldn’t control myself…when the fire department finally showed up and the guy inspecting the panel got all indignant about how we weren’t supposed to be able to turn that panel off, who gave us the code, I told him off and said maybe he shouldn’t have made the code 1-2-3-4-5-6.  So he changed the code, which I learned to my chagrin the next time the panel went wonky.  Oh well, it was probably worth it.)