The Ice Pirates (1984)


Robert Urich stars in this sci-fi adventure comedy about space pirates that pillage ice in a galaxy where water is scarce. But after being captured, Urich and his crew are sold to a princess (Mary Crosby) who orders them to help find her father, who may have found a new planet abundant with water.

As a comedy, The Ice Pirates has exactly two comic set-pieces involving castration and time-travel. Outside those two sequences, the only remotely funny thing is the depiction of the pirates’ bungling robots. I laughed outloud only one time, when Bruce Vilanch’s talking, severed head spits out a ring for Urich and then asks him if he’d like to make a deposit.

With its campy medieval costumes and cheap K-Mart sets, I expected The Ice Pirates to be more irreverent and over-the-top, something akin to Spaceballs. But Ice Pirates takes itself just seriously enough to kill its own comedic momentum. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if the film had more heart and earnest drama to anchor it, so that it could become something emotionally engaging but still funny, like Galaxy Quest. Instead, Ice Pirates lands between genres in a way that just doesn’t quite work for me on either level.

A few of the supporting cast have some moments. Anjelica Huston gets to demonstrate female bad-assery in a couple of battle scenes, and John Matuszak (Sloth from The Goonies) has some great line deliveries as a con man for all occasions. Michael D. Roberts plays Urich’s bland sidekick while the talent of Ron Perlman goes wasted, and John Carradine is wheeled out for a thankless cameo.

Directed by Stewart Raffill of Mac & Me and Tammy and the T-Rex infamy.