Readers of this site may have read recent news that there is to be a new Star Wars spoof. This film comes from the team who brought us Date Movie, Epic Movie, and apparently something called The Starving Games which blissfully passed me by. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Selzer make relatively cheap movies that, despite critical maulings, tend to make money at the box office. When I worked at a cinema, an eleven year old boy went to see Meet The Spartans three times, proclaiming it the best film he had ever seen.
In the words of financier Covert Media’s Paul Hanson: “Jason and Aaron are a powerhouse duo who have proven time and time again that they are fully tapped into the what audiences love. Their fearless take on pop culture has us beyond thrilled to tackle the world’s most popular franchise with the two of them leading us into a galaxy far, far away.”
While it is important to keep an open mind, I personally do not want to be lead anywhere by the powerhouse duo, and now that it’s clear 2017 and beyond will continue the trend for unremitting bleakness, we thought it best to bring you some coping mechanisms.
The good news is that there’s a long list of Star Wars related comedy out there. Nothing becomes that huge and that beloved without some good natured mickey-taking happening to it. This means that, should this new film turn out to rubbish, there are plenty of alternatives. In fact, you might not have to even watch this new movie or embark on any sort of protracted and aggressive hate campaign against it. Truly we are living in a golden age of progress.
Star Wars gets referenced constantly, most famously by Danny Dyer in the film Human Traffic, and also in lesser known works such as The LEGO Movie, Sesame Street, and Toy Story 2. Crucially, it usually gets referenced and parodied in ways more imaginative than just saying “Hey, this is a thing from Star Wars” which I imagine would be a tedious way to spend 90 minutes.
Indeed, as early as 1978 Ernie Fosselius made a fan film called Hardware Wars, which made over a million dollars on a budget of eight thousand. Observational comedy about Star Wars can be found in Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Eddie Izzard’s Circle. These are probably the most famous riffs bringing banality to the space opera, once you’ve discounted the opening crawl from The Phantom Menace. In response to that film Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, and Edgar Wright’s Spaced contained much venting of spleen, and with officially sanctioned music cues after LucasArts saw the first series and thought “Aw, these guys like us.”
Family Guy released three spoofs based on the original trilogy, Robot Chicken and The Adam and Joe Show used action figures to send it – and, in Adam and Joe’s case, The Royal Family – up, and everyone did the gag where the light sabers were like dongs. On the music side of things, Weird Al Yankovic’s The Saga Begins is probably the best way to experience The Phantom Menace, and The Simpsons managed to mash up Star Wars, Guys and Dolls, and The Bodyguard.
The above paragraph barely scratches the surface of Star Wars comedy, but in all cases none of them is a feature length, Lucas-endorsed spoof.
Enter Spaceballs, a Freudian bounty of gleaming orbs and incredibly extended shafts.
While Friedberg and Selzer’s work has been criticized for a lack of jokes, this is not an accusation you could level at Mel Brooks. While Friedberg and Selzer’s work has been criticized for being immature and crass, this is an accusation you could level at Mel Brooks (indeed, Daphne Zuniga thought this until she worked with him). However, I laughed at every single Cuddly Dick joke in Yonderland, so it’s the first one of these that’s the real issue. You can see craft in Brooks and his writers’ gags, literally in the case of the seemingly never-ending Spaceball 1 ship. Even when the joke looks to be about a man’s ass being on the wrong way round, it’s actually a setup for a clever/stupid transporter gag. It’s lowbrow, sure, but it also goes through all the other brows, and throws in a pun about Kafka on the way. If you don’t like puns, you’re probably watching the wrong film. If you like your fourth wall to go unmentioned and structurally sound, you’re also probably watching the wrong film.
As you might expect from seeing Blazing Saddles, the fourth wall is continually broken in Spaceballs, including one deliriously silly moment where the characters start watching the VHS of the film while also being in it. It’s one of many gags made at the expense of Star Wars merchandise, although there were no action figures from Spaceballs as Brooks got permission to do the film on the condition there was no tie-in merchandise. Although there was a novelization of the film written by a young R.L. Stine, there were no figurines of Pizza the Hutt. This is probably for the best as Pizza the Hutt is legit disgusting. The actor in the suit refused to climb back in for reshoots.
Spaceballs was Brooks’ first film as a writer/director in six years, and arrived in 1987. As a result, it did okay financially considering Return of the Jedi came out four years before it, with Spaceballs earning $38 million on a $23 million budget. Star Wars maintained its place in pop culture, and is not the only franchise it sends up; Star Trek and Planet of the Apes are in the mix too. Spaceballs is still something that audiences can get without being a fan of the obscure. Plus it’s on Netflix. Plus it has Rick Moranis in it.
Possibly it’s because all the Bill Murray lines get quoted when people bring up Ghostbusters, possibly it’s because I’m a comedy hipster and I want to show how much cooler I am than you, but Louis Tully was the funniest character the last time I watched it. In Spaceballs, Rick Moranis improvised the scene where Darth Helmet plays with his dolls. In Spaceballs, Rick Moranis came up with the idea that Darth Helmet’s voice changes when his helmet is down. Rick Moranis has taken very few acting jobs since 1996, in order to focus on his family, but occasionally releases comedy music albums. I miss Rick Moranis.
Now, with a new trilogy underway, this new spoof has been announced. While it isn’t going to be widely watched here, it clearly isn’t for us. There may be another that is. In the meantime, though, we’re sticking with Mel Brooks, Emo Kylo Ren, and that episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno that has Daisy Ridley in it.