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Galaxy Quest (2000)

by on 2011/04/14

“You know, with all that makeup and stuff, I actually thought you were smart for a second.”

* * * *

At some point nearly a decade ago, I first saw Galaxy Quest. I say “saw” not “watched” for I couldn’t possibly have been paying close attention. It wasn’t in the theatre. It must have been on video. And that’s all I know for — perhaps worse than unlikable — I found it almost completely forgettable.

What could I have been thinking?  Had Sigma Draconian Eymorgs stolen my brain?

Now, I won’t get into whether I’m a “trekkie” or a “trekker” or whatever Star Trek fans get all existential about. I will admit to being a fan, however, particularly of The Next Generation, with the original series coming in a close second.

I also like the movies, including odd-numbered ones. I’ve read some tie-in novels, comics, and magazines. I’ve played a number of the video games. I own a few soundtrack albums. I even have an opinion on the recent reboot, or prequel, or whatever you want to call it. (No, you’re not going to read about it here.)

Which makes me pretty much a target demographic for Galaxy Quest. It’s a light parody for anyone who’s familiar with Trek, but wasn’t personally offended by TrekkiesFree Enterprise, or Futurama’s “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”.

The aging has-been cast of a cancelled space opera TV show has been relegated to convention circuit hell. Egos and insecurities run rampant among the fractious group whose only sympathizers are themselves. The various actors struggle with issues similar to their characters’ spiritual forebears: Sigourney Weaver’s (Alien) presence as a token female, Sam Rockwell’s (Everybody’s Fine) uncertainty as a plucky comic red shirt, Alan Rickman’s (Die Hard) loathing of a fictional philosophy, and Tim Allen’s (Toy Story) blind devotion to himself.

When a troupe of eccentric die-hard fans appear at a public signing, the cast doesn’t realize these fans are off-world aliens, searching for assistance. For their part, the aliens don’t realize the cast are actors, not astro-venturers.

In addition to those I’ve already mentioned, other roles are filled by an assortment of geeky stalwarts, including Justin Long (Going the Distance), Kevin McDonald (The Wrong Guy), Tony Shaloub (Barton Fink), and Rainn Wilson (The Office). Each gamely plays their part in sending up their own role with a light-hearted humour, and no trace of derision or malice.

Many common Trek tropes are exploited, if not explored, including those both fictional (communication, illusion, and transportation) and actual (fandom, fame, and hubris). By and large its parody targets the original incarnation, though The Next Generation gets the occasional nod. However, with less naivety, and a cast well-known for its off-screen camaraderie, the newer series offers less opportunity for mockery.

In truth, Galaxy Quest is no Great Film. It’s not even up to the standards of the pieces it parodies. (Well, maybe The Motion Picture.) Its acting is hammy, its story cliche, and its production more cheesy than slick. Nevertheless, that’s as it should be. I was wrong to dismiss it initially. It doesn’t need to shoot for the stars. It just wants to goose those who do.

* * * *

Rated PG

101 minutes

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