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GALAXY QUEST , 1999
Cast: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, Daryl Mitchell, Sam Rockwell, Enrico Colantoni
A group of washed up science fiction actors find themselves in the adventure of a lifetime when they are recruited by an alien race who believe them to be the characters from their old television show. They soon find themselves in over their heads, though, as they realize that they are the only thing standing in the way of the complete destruction of this alien race. Can they find the courage to actually become the heroes they once pretended to be?
There are two kinds of science fiction fans in this world: those who love Star Wars and those devoted to Star Trek. While fans of one can appreciate the other, they can only be fans of one or the other. My personal preference has always been Star Wars. For whatever reason, Star Trek just never appealed to me, and this, I believe, makes me the perfect person to review a film like Galaxy Quest. Because the film is an obvious take-off of Star Trek, filled with inside jokes and references that only hardcore fans will appreciate, it takes a non-fan to make the appeal to the masses that this is a funny, exciting movie and that it can be appreciated even by those who know nothing about Star Trek.
Though they were once the stars of the popular television sci-fi adventure series called Galaxy Quest, actors Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), Sir Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) , Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) and Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) have now been reduced to doing the convention show circuit. There they are trotted out to cheesy music and are forced to sign hundreds of autographs for their fans. After one convention, Jason is approached by a group that he believes are fans dressed as aliens. Thinking that they want him to film something he agrees to go with them. However he soon realizes that they are really aliens who have modeled their civilization and their spaceship after those modeled in episodes of Galaxy Quest that they found. Once Jason understands the truth, he sees this as the role of a lifetime and he convinces the rest of the crew to join him, pretending to be their fictional characters. Unfortunately, the aliens, known as Thermians, have a very real enemy who is determined to destroy them, and it becomes increasingly clear that this group of actors are the last hope for this alien race.
One of the real strengths of Galaxy Quest is how it acknowledges the cheesiness and overacting of Star Trek, as well as the obsessiveness of its fans, and mines it for laughs without ever becoming mean spirited in the process. In fact, without giving too much away, in the film it is actually a fan of Galaxy Quest, the kind who has spent years studying the lay-out of the once fictional, but now very real, ship who saves the day. Very few films of this kind show the fans as anything more than stereotypical nerds. Never do they let them become the heroes. The film also pokes some fun at the conventions of science fiction series, like the random crew members who inevitably die. Here that part is played by Sam Rockwell, who portrays an actor who got killed in his one episode and now finds himself fearing that he will meet the same fate onboard the real ship. In another scene, while trying to get to the control room of the ship, Jason and Gwen are met with giant chompers standing in their way, threatening to crush them. There is no actual reason for them to be there, except that they were on the show and so here they are. Of course it was completely illogical to put them there, but it probably made for some great T.V.
While a loving tribute to all things Star Trek, this is not a film that will alienate people who aren’t science fiction fans. Details like the chompers are what make the movie so much fun; maybe a Star Trek fan could tell you what episode featured something similar, but the situation is so funny in and of itself that it works on every level.
One aspect of Galaxy Quest that many people will overlook are its special effects, which are fantastic. There is a stark contrast between the ship that the Thermians use and the ship of their nemesis, Sarris. The former ship is intendeded to be a recreation of a campy 70s television show and it looks it, but the latter ship is supposed to be real and it certainly looks it. The same goes for the aliens themselves; the Thermians look like actors with too much makeup, while their reptilian enemies look scary and real. This contrast works very well in the film, as it highlights the difference between the actors playing space heroes, going up against aliens who are far from fake.
Galaxy Quest is a film that will please different people on different levels, depending how much they enjoy cheap sci-fi shows, with their obviously fake sets, wooden acting and illogical plots. For the die hard fanatics, they will love the little call-backs and inside jokes. For everyone else, this is a really funny movie, with great action and amazing special effects.