A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spaceballs is Mel Brooks' 1987 spoof of the Star Wars franchise. However, while the Star Wars movies are movies young kids can watch and enjoy, the bawdy humor and absurd innuendo and double entendre make this best for older kids. Characters have names like "Major A--hole" and "Prince Valium." Ethnic and racial jokes abound; Princess Vespa, for instance, from the planet Druidia, is a "Druish Princess," and when Dark Helmet orders his troops to "comb the beach," African-American troops are shown using a giant afro comb to run through the sand. When Lone Star and Dark Helmet fight with light sabers, they turn them on while holding their hands close to their respective crotches, causing Dark Helmet to exclaim, "Your Schwartz is as big as mine!" One of the characters emerges from under the blankets in a bed with two identical twin women. There's some pratfall and slapstick violence, and language: "f--k" is used once, and "s--t" and "a--hole" are frequently used.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Is it any good?
Brooks' Star Wars parody isn't particularly sophisticated, but older kids and teens should have fun with the goofy humor. Like most Brooks fare, Spaceballs revels in crude, sometimes infantile gags. For example, when the Darth Vader-inspired character, Dark Helmet, first appears, he approaches the camera, breathing heavily through his face-obscuring mask. Suddenly he flips up the front of the mask to reveal a nerdy-looking Rick Moranis, who exclaims, "I can't breathe in this thing!"
One of the great virtues of Brooks' masterwork, Young Frankenstein, was its beautiful re-creation of the look of the horror films of the 1930s, which added punch to all the ensuing silliness. Here, you don't really get the impression of watching a Star Wars movie gone mad: Many of the cheap-ish looking sets wouldn't look out of place on an episode of Saturday Night Live. Nevertheless, there are moments when the movie shines. Excessive merchandising is taken to task in a very funny scene in which Yogurt (Brooks again) hawks everything from Spaceballs the toilet paper to Spaceballs the flame thrower ("the kids love this one!"). And the movie's most memorable gag pays tribute to both the Alien series and the classic Chuck Jones cartoon "One Froggy Evening." Another good bit manages to work in a re-creation of the famous conclusion of Planet of the Apes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about other film or TV parodies besides Spaceballs that they enjoy. For example, The Simpsons is one of the best examples of parody used as social commentary. What can funny imitations point out that serious analysis may render too boring?
Which movies is Spaceballs specifically making fun of? How can you tell?
Mel Brooks has a distinctive style of comedy movies, movies filled with puns, sexual innuendoes, silliness, and slapstick. Who are some other examples of directors and actors who have their own distinct and well-known style?
- In theaters: June 26, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: May 3, 2005
- Cast: Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis
- Director: Mel Brooks
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: raunchy humor and comic violence
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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