Saturday, August 13, 2016

#2,172. Galaxy Quest (1999)

Directed By: Dean Parisot

Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman

Tag line: "Never give up, never surrender!"

Trivia: This film was one of the earliest to have its own internet domain and web-site

Galaxy Quest is a 1999 sci-fi / comedy that delivers ample doses of both; it is a side-splittingly funny movie as well as a thrilling outer space adventure. And while it does take a few light-hearted jabs at obsessed sci-fi fans, the movie also pays tribute to extreme fandom in a very unique and sometimes touching way.

In its heyday, Galaxy Quest was a top-rated sci-fi television show, with a cast of characters beloved by millions. In the years since the series was cancelled, however, the crew of the NSEA Protector has been reduced to appearing at fan conventions and officiating the occasional grand opening. Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), who played Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, has a good rapport with the show’s legion of fans, yet has alienated his fellow cast members by continuously stealing the spotlight from them.

Co-star Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), a classically trained actor from the UK, portrayed the alien Dr. Lazarus, and due to typecasting has come to regret his involvement with Galaxy Quest. As for the others, Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), whose Lt. Tawny Madison had the most pointless role on the show (she repeated what the on-board computer said), as well as Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub), who played Tech Sgt. Chen, and former child star Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell), aka Lt. Laredo, are tired of living in Jason Nesmith’s shadow. Though they played a tight-knit crew on TV, the Galaxy Quest cast is anything but close these days.

But fate is about to reunite them for one last mission.

A race of alien creatures, aka the Thermians, have, for decades, intercepted the broadcasts and reruns of the Galaxy Quest series, and believing them to be “historical documents” modeled their entire civilization after the show. When their home world is attacked by the evil reptilian overlord Gen. Roth'h'ar Sarris (Robin Sachs), Thermian representatives Malthasar (Enrico Colantoni), Lahnk (Rainn Wilson) and Lallari (Missi Pyle) contact the one person in the galaxy brave enough to save them: Commander Taggert of the NSEA Protector!

Believing it to be nothing more than a fan-made movie he’s been asked to appear in, Nesmith (who was recovering from a hangover, and therefore unconscious during the trip into space) doesn’t take his first encounter with Sarris seriously, and after issuing the order to attack asks the Thermians to take him home. 

But instead of a limo to drive him to his California mansion, the actor is covered with a protective casing and jettisoned into space, coming to a landing right next to his swimming pool. It’s at this point Nesmith realizes the Thermian's problem is a very real one, and, hoping to bond with his fellow cast mates, coerces them, as well as former extra Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell) - who played a doomed crew member in episode 81 - to join in the fight against Sarris. Alexander, Gwen and the others agree, of course, thinking it’s another gig, only to learn the truth rather quickly.

The battle won’t be easy, but with the Galaxy Quest crew reunited, and with the help of super-fan Brandon (Justin Long) back on earth, they may just defeat Sarris and bring peace to the galaxy.

First and foremost, Galaxy Quest is a comedy, and a funny one at that. Each actor manages to generate their fair share of laughs, starting with star Tim Allen, who seems perfectly suited for the role of the enthusiastic Jason Nesmith. Sigourney Weaver, who spent most of her time in space duking it out with deadly creatures (Alien, Aliens, etc), delivers an uproarious performance as the show’s lone female, while Alan Rickman’s Alexander is an entertaining sourpuss who wishes he could put the show, as well as his character’s most famous line ("By Grapthar’s Hammer, you shall be avenged”) behind him. Tony Shalhoub is equally good as the laid-back Fred, and Sam Rockwell’s Guy, often afraid of being killed because he's the "expendable" cast member, has some truly hilarious moments.

Yet as funny as it is, Galaxy Quest is also quite thrilling. Some of the battles with Sarris will have you on the edge of your seat, as will the crew’s encounter with a floating mine field in space. As for the special effects, they’re damn impressive. Stan Winston outdid himself with the aliens he concocted for the film. Sarris is appropriately menacing, and the brief glimpses we get of the Thermians in their true, non-human form look pretty darn good. As for Enrico Colantoni, Missi Pyle, and the others, their performances as the meek but determined aliens are just quirky enough to make their characters endearing. 

And then, or course, there are the Galaxy Quest fans, many of whom dress in costume and attend every convention. Clearly intended to resemble Star Trek enthusiasts, some of the scenes involving this group of fanatics are meant to be funny (those dressed as Dr. Lazarus keep repeating his famous line, driving poor Alexander crazy), but thanks to Justin Long’s Brandon, we see such obsessions can occasionally prove helpful. Much like the documentary Trekkies, Galaxy Quest gets a few laughs at the fan’s expense, but was also made by people who understand and admire them.

So how did the Star Trek faithful react to this movie? Well, at a 2013 convention in Las Vegas, they voted Galaxy Quest the 7th best Trek film ever made! Obviously, Star Trek fans have embraced this movie.

As have the rest of us.

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