When Princess Vespa, daughter of King Roland, ruler of Druidia, is kidnapped by an evil race, The Spaceballs, space pirate Lone Starr is persuaded by Roland to lead a daring rescue mission.
At some point in movie history, the director who split our sides with superb spoofs The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein became the schmuck who caused our lips to curl and arses to pucker with Robin Hood: Men In Tights and Dracula: Dead And Loving It. That quality-shedding metamorphosis could well have occurred during the production of Spaceballs, when Brooks settled his parody-seeking eye on sci-fi – mainly the big, fat, soft target that is the Star Wars saga, but also a collection of other obvious space-based targets like Alien, Planet Of The Apes and, er, Transformers.
Subtlety had never been Brooks’ thing, but even blunt blows need to be well aimed, and while Spaceballs doesn’t exactly miss its targets, it certainly bounces off them embarrassingly. It’s not entirely without its charms – John Candy’s half-man, half-dog Chewbacca-substitute Barf does get some good lines (“I’m my own best friend!”), and there’s an occasional smile-raiser – like the opening, seemingly never-ending spaceship reveal. But even this is a bit of a cheeky lift from Airplane!, in which the same technique was used to convey the ludicrous complexity of a cockpit dashboard. Elsewhere, the humour rarely rises above the level of school panto; you’d titter indulgently at characters like Barf the dog-man, Yogurt (Yoda? Yogurt? Do you see?) and Pizza The Hutt if you were watching a bunch of children doing a self-scribbled Star Wars pisstake, but this from the man who wrote Springtime For Hitler? Unforgiveable then, unforgiveable now.