The SmarK DVD Rant for Spaceballs: The Animated Adventures

I had a bad feeling about this one as soon as I opened the package. I had heard of Mel Brooks’ sad attempt to recapture the magic of Spaceballs in passing, but given that the channel it aired on in Canada (Superchannel, the least Super of the "premium" networks, trust me) is watched by about 10 people total, I had never sat down and had the pleasure of witnessing the carnage first-hand.


So here’s my first problem of many: This was apparently a 13-episode series, and yet this DVD is only four of the episodes. And they’re not shown in order. So this leaves the question in my mind: Who the hell is this supposed to be appealing to? People who loved this series so much that they’re willing to drop $20 for a measly 90 minutes of it with no guarantee of ever getting the rest? The disc isn’t even double-layer, they could have easily fit 8 episodes on a single disc if nothing else.

Then there’s my second problem, which is the show itself and the quality therein. See, it’s not really connected to Spaceballs in any meaningful way outside of the character names. Yeah, it’s the same characters, kind of, and Mel Brooks does voices along with Daphne Zuniga (did she need the money really badly or what?), but mostly it’s a collection of pop culture parodies featuring only loose connections to the original people. Dark Helmet in particular has undergone a horrifying transformation into a wacky Disney henchman, losing any of the charm that Rick Moranis brought to the character. If Mel Brooks wanted to do dated pop culture parodies, then fine, but why drag the good name of Spaceballs into it?

Anyway, here’s what you get, for better or worse:

The Show

– "Outbreak". Yes, it’s a cutting edge parody of ecoli and ebola, as Skroob combines the two viruses into a deadly soft drink called…E-Cola. That’s about the biggest laugh you’re getting, so prepare yourself now. Unfortunately, much like anything else vaguely funny here, they hammer that one home 20 times before the end of the episode. Barf goes on a cola binge and ends up infecting an entire planet via puking. And there’s a lot of it. It’s not really intended to be for kids judging by the grossout humor and Dark Helmet trying to get in (and out) of a tight tent flap (get it?), but they can’t actually do anything risqué, so the result is weirdly bland series of sex and bodily fluid jokes.

– "The Skroobinator". Skroob is up for re-election, and he needs an evil plan absurdly complicated enough to carry an episode. So it’s back to 1984 (with hamfisted references to ’80s movies that are actually so poorly executed you have to think for a minute about what the hell is being referenced) and an attempt to kill his opponent’s ancestor. There’s a running joke with Dark Helmet having to say "Great" a bunch of times to express the relationship, and it should tell you something when that’s the best they can come up with. And then it’s a parody of the original Terminator. Yes, years after parodying the sequel became stale, Mel goes for the original. I did laugh once here: "President Skroob, running unopposed, won by a narrow margin."

– "Deep Ship". It’s another attempt to kidnap Princess Vespa, this time on a galactic cruise that might veer into Titanic parody or into Poseidon Adventure parody depending on how lame they want to be. And indeed, the ship goes upside-down and it’s the disaster movie parody for the win. But since Brooks is 100 years old now, he’s parodying the original movie and not the crappy remake. It’s pretty much beat-for-beat the same thing as the Simpsons’ version of it.

– "Grand Theft Starship". Well at least we’re parodying something from this century now, as Lonestar gets hooked on an ultra-violent videogame and then sucked into the video world, allowing the Spaceballs to conquer the universe unopposed. And that’s just the first act. For whatever reason, Skroob and Helmet decide to follow Lonestar into the Grand Theft Starship world and conquer that as well, which I will grant does give us some mildly amusing cameos from videogame characters. Plus Skroob arms the citizens of the videogame world with the Konami code, which is kind of cute. The boss fight against the giant crab is also a nice bit of meta-commentary on videogames, but what does any of this have to do with Spaceballs? Nothing, and that’s the problem. You might as well have stuck any generic characters into the main roles.

So that’s it. Oh, and you also get four "hilarious" intermission segments with Skroob and Helmet selling "The Complete Moron’s Guide to Conquering the Universe", which is about as funny as they sound.

Audio & Video

Let me put it this way: It looks like college kids came up with a Flash animation setup on a weekend and outsourced it to Korea. Mel Brooks has never been known for splurging on budgets and this is no exception. I have a real problem with all the women in the series suddenly having gigantic boobs that bounce with every movement, though. It’s fine for Skroob’s bimbos, but it just looks ridiculous and embarrassingly dated on a character like Vespa. The actual transfer is good enough for an animated show, I suppose. Audio is stereo, thrilling as you’d imagine.

Bonus Features

Yeah, right. They couldn’t even give us more than 4 episodes and you think they’re wasting time with extra stuff?

The Pulse

Apparently you can watch it free on Hulu (for those of you in countries that can access it) so I have no idea why you’d want to waste money on this DVD. Buy the original movie instead.

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