Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999)
[originally posted 27Dec1999]
Tip one: never, ever go to a PG-rated film at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon. I got spoiled by having empty theaters for the last few movies I went to. I haven’t seen a theatre this full since Sleepy Hollow. At least the subject matter was more appropriate this time.
Despite the presence of some serious starpower, this had the potential to be a truly awful movie. Thankfully, it managed to avoid that, although it took the easy way out. The cast of an old TV show called Galaxy Quest are making their living showing up at conventions. (Sound familiar?) They are approached by a band of real aliens, who think that the reruns are actually documentaries, who ask them to save their planet from the evil lizard-bird-alien-thing Saris. The commander (Tim Allen), who thinks they’re asking him to do a faked appearance, goes along and discovers himself actually out in space, in a real replica of the Galaxy Quest ship. He lures the others (including an extra who was killed five minutes into his episode– sound familiar?) into helping him battle Saris. With, of course, the expected results.
This could have also degenerated into simple parody. And it’s good enough simple parody of the first few crossover Star Trek films (while Tim Allen’s character is obviously modeled on Jim Kirk, Alan Rickman seems to be an odd cross of Spock and Picard– early on, he mumbles to himself, “Why am I doing this? I played Richard III!”), with more than enough laughs to stand, but what turns this puerile silliness into truly biting satire is the second level of parody; if you see Star Trek as a self-parody, something that was meant to be cheesy, then you can see a lot of Galaxy Quest as parody within parody. The miners (you’ve seen the trailers, right? The ones Sigourney Weaver says “look like little children”) bear a more-than-passing resemblance to Teletubbies, carrying on the Star Trek tradition of pop-culture cannibalism; jokes are made about Tim Allen’s character sleeping with everything that moves; etc.
All is well and good with the last hour of this film. It’s funny, smart (well, okay, in a stupid way), well-acted, and cheesy as all get-out. It’s the first twenty minutes that I couldn’t get my head around. The slowest of slow starts, which usually spells death for a comedy; the strength of the movie’s remaining time is all that saves it. The cast are capable. The script is stupid, but it’s supposed to be (and intent is everything). Sigourney Weaver still looks fabulous with half her clothing ripped off.
The tagline is “never give up; never surrender.” I wish they’d circumvented it long enough to give up the first twenty minutes of this movie. ** 1/2