Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Galaxy Quest (1999)

It’s funny how one show or movie can become a cultural icon while others of similar quality are never noticed.  Even those who have never seen Star Trek would probably know the names of the ship and at least a few of the characters and main races.  This is what makes it perfect for parody.  Everyone gets the joke on some level.

Galaxy Quest starts off at a convention for a show called, appropriately enough, Galaxy Quest.  The main actors didn’t have much of a career outside of doing conventions, promotions and whatnot in character.  (Alexander Dane, played by Alan Rickman, is never seen without his prosthetic forehead, even during the one scene where he’s in normal clothing.)

Tim Allen plays Jason Nesmith.  Jason Nesmith plays the captain of the NSEA Protector.  At a convention, he overhears what a washed-up, good-for-nothing, unpopular person he his.  He realizes that it’s true and takes it out on a group of fans.  On his way out, he talks a group seeking his help.  This group happens to be actual aliens in need of actual help.  When they approach Nesmith at his house, Nesmith is hung over.

He still agrees to go with them, thinking it’s some other job.  Little does he realize that he’s actually supposed to negotiate with a hostile alien named Sarris.  It isn’t until he’s sent back home that he realizes that any of it was real.  His fellow actors dismiss him as drunk until the aliens show up again, requesting further help.  Everyone goes, including an actor who had appeared only as an extra in one episode.

They soon realize that the Thermians are advanced enough to build a replica of the ship from the show, but have no idea that the show was a work of fiction, which apparently doesn‘t exist in their culture.  They refer to the episodes of Galaxy quest as historical documents, thinking that the actors are actually astronauts.

The actors play along until they realize that all Nesmith did was to aggravate Sarris and subsequently get his ‘crew’ into danger.  The second incident with Sarris goes poorly, resulting in a badly damaged ship, which they do manage to repair.  Sarris eventually attacks the ship again, nearly winning.  With a little help, the day is saved.

Very few of the jokes are specific enough that you’d have to watch the series to get them.  Some of them are more generic, like having to race through an improbable obstacle course.    Some do require a bit more knowledge, like references to particular characters.  (Sigourney Weaver plays Gwen DeMarco, shown to be little more a love interest for the captain.)

The movie is almost like an accidental A-Team movie with a Star Trek twist.  Sure, the abducted-by-na├»ve-aliens thing has been done before.  Sure, coming through despite not really being able to has been done before.  Sure, I’d love to see if they try a sequel.  (So far as I know, the last one is still in the speculation stage.)
It comes across as a movie that makes its point without being preachy.  It pokes fun at the people without being insulting.  (Isn’t it every fan’s dream to help out the star of their favorite show?)  I don’t know that it would make my list of top ten films, but it does find that balance of being fun and being smart.  I’d recommend watching it if you get a chance.

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