Films featuring
Mel Brooks

The Twelve Chairs

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As the least well-known of Mel Brooks’s early films, The Twelve Chairs stands well apart from the others. It’s not a spoof of other films nor is it a balls-to-the-wall farce like The Producers. While it has its slapstick elements, it also has a kind of sweetness and elements of character drama not normally found in Brooks’s filmography.

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To Be or Not to Be

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To Be or Not to Be is sort of an odd duck among Mel Brooks films. Aside from voice-over work and TV guest shots, it’s about his only major role in a film he didn’t write or direct. While long on slapstick, it’s the closest thing to serious that Brooks has been at any point of his career, dealing with the Nazi occupation of Poland and the Holocaust, however obliquely. It also has the most cohesive storyline of any Brooks film since Young Frankenstein.

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Robin Hood: Men in Tights

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Following not so hard on the heels of Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights marks the second entry in the latter stage of Mel Brooks’ directing career. While not totally lacking in its share of entertainment value, it definitely fails to deliver the subversive zing found in most of the earlier Brooks films like Blazing Saddles or even History of the World, Part I.

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The Muppet Movie

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In a lot of ways, the Muppets were the Looney Tunes of their generation, seemingly directed at small children but operating at a gleefully subversive level of sophistication that goes right over the kids’ heads and straight for the hearts of their parents. Their first feature length film plays like an extended big-screen version of their late-seventies television show. This is a good thing.

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Spaceballs

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Spaceballs marked the beginning of a second stage to Mel Brooks‘ career. After a busy decade in the 1970s, he had been quiet since 1981’s History of the World, Part I. Unlike his early films, where he satirized broad genres or at least the entire life’s work of a single director, this second wind would find him targeting a single film for parody and, in this case, a full decade after the film in question, Star Wars, was current and considered ripe for the spoofing.

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The real weakness of this and later Brooks films is the laziness of the humor. Brooks seems to be weakly emulating the style of Abraham/Zucker films that his early work helped to inspire, such as Airplane!. Continue reading

Robots

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Long on visual flair and short on originality, Robots is the latest entry in the competition between Fox and Dreamworks to see who can finish a distant second behind Pixar in the field of computer animated features. That’s not to say that this isn’t worth 89 minutes of your time. Not only do the visual puns and pop culture reference fly past with cheerful abandon, the look of the film is as close to gloriously photo-realistic as an CG animated movie has come. The world of Robot City is a lushly imagined creation that looks like Minority Report as directed by Rube Goldberg.

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