Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks still acts on occasion but hung up the director’s chair back in 1995. Doing exclusively comedies, his career as a director took off as his skills improved, often using vulgarity, exaggeration, and occasional satire. But somewhere around the 1980s, he resorted to slapstick almost exclusively, which is very hard to do well and Brooks’ seemed to be pretty mediocre at pulling off. His three worst rated movies on IMDb are his final three movies, so it looks like he retired before he further tarnished his legacy.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights: Some fun performances by Roger Rees, Cary Elwes, and Patrick Stewart, but some definite lulls with some mediocre jokes. I haven’t seen the whole movie, so I won’t rank it, but I’ve seen most of it and it would likely rank behind the next three movies.

Grade: N/A

Spaceballs: Low on satire, heavy on slapstick, this Star Wars spoof cracked me up as a kid and can still make me laugh a few times today. The fight between Bill Pullman and Rick Moranis is great. as are some throwaway jokes like “combing the desert.” A bit too obvious at times.

Grade: C+

Young Frankenstein: More than just a send-up of Mary Shelley, there are many genuine laughs that don’t rely on the source material. Mel Brooks creates a solid screenplay that is both hilarious and heartwarming, partly thanks to Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn, who are at their best. Not as funny as the next movie, but better directed.

Grade: B

Blazing Saddles: One of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, Mel Brooks throws everything and the kitchen sink into this crazy, jumbled…something of the Old West. It’s part satire, part parody, part slapstick, and part lowbrow comedy. From Alex Karras punching a horse, to a preacher telling everyone that “our women have been stampeded and our cattle raped,” to everyone in the town being named Johnson, the laughs rarely stop coming. Mel Brooks gets away with a lot of vulgarity and offensive language because he sets up the safe space for it so well. Cleavon LIttle is fun as the black sheriff who is supposed to scare everyone out of town so a railroad can be built, but they instead warm up to him. Gene Wilder plays his drunken deputy and Madeline Kahn plays a man-killer. All-around, it’s a confusing mess, but it’s one time where I don’t care.

Grade: A-

Other Mel Brooks Movies You May Have Seen

The Producers
The Twelve Chairs
Silent Movie
High Anxiety
History of the World: Part I
Life Stinks
Dracula: Dead and Loving It

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5 thoughts on “Mel Brooks

  1. I loved Spaceballs as a kid but yeah, it does not hold up well. It’s great for kids more than anyone, as it really focuses on lowbrow, childish humor.

    History of the World: Part I is pretty damned funny, and worth seeing. Silent Movie was kind of a letdown, as I thought it fell apart a bit too early as they immediately go in with the subtitling. It would have been so, so much funnier (and more impressive) if the characters had said nothing at all, and this is what I went in expecting.

    The Producers is good but Zero Mostel is so swarthy and slick as the lead character that it’s hard to care what happens to him. He plays it very well, but it’s not a great way to play a lead character. It really does hurt the movie to some degree.

    Cleavon Little’s final movie before dying relatively young was Fletch Lives. He was awesome, and should have a better body of work. I don’t know what the problem was, as I’ve listened to the Blazing Saddles commentary and Brooks said that he and everyone else absolutely loved the guy.

  2. Oh man, I still love Men in Tights. Its been a couple of years since I watched it last, but I did still laugh at the jokes and enjoyed pretty much everyone except Richard Lewis.

    Also, I think I rate Young Frankenstein much better. I put it as my favorite Mel Brooks movie, possibly because of Igor.

    • Men in Tights probably isn’t any worse than Spaceballs, but I think I may have been too old when I first saw Men in Tights. I saw it around age 20, and at that time the gags were too infantile. Meanwhile, I still have fond memories of Spaceballs because I watched it weekly or more when I was a kid, and the jokes were aimed straight at me (outside of the “merchandising” bit, which was the closest he got to satire in that one),

      • I also love the intentionally idiocy of the line “Now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb.”

        • INTENTIONAL idiocy. Me saying “intentionally idiocy” was accidental idiocy. And yes, it was difficult not to say “accidentally idiocy” there.

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