Galaxy Quest (1999)
Release Date: December 25th, 1999 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Dean Parisot Actors: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Daryl Mitchell, Robin Sachs, Missi Pyle, Enrico Colantoni
alaxy Quest” is a smartly derived parody of “Star Trek” and other cult science-fiction TV shows, humorously mocking all the staples of the genre. Its finest achievement is the diverse cast of acting veterans, most of which are known for serious roles, here representing a daring, self-mocking contrast. Although there are definitely a few stale one-liners, “Galaxy Quest” chooses to exploit the already nonsensical aspects of sincere sci-fi, resulting in universally understood jokes and recognizable character stereotypes. And don’t miss feature film debuts for Justin Long and Rainn Wilson.
“Galaxy Quest” was a long-running television show that gained an enormous fan following. After the series ended, the washed up actors are given the chance to relive their glory days by participating in nerdy conventions. “Never give up, never surrender!” shouts Peter Quincy Taggart, the valiant commander of the NSEA starship Protector. His tagline becomes a source of contempt from his fellow crewmembers, especially when actor Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), portraying Taggart, keeps up his enthusiasm at dreary “Galaxy Quest” festivals. Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) played Lt. Tawny Madison, a boilerplate female role, in which her only duty was to repeat what the computer spouted; Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) was Dr. Lazarus, a Klingon-like alien who never betrayed his emotions (something of a cross between Spock and Data); Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) portrayed Tech Sergeant Chen; and Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) was Laredo, a child pilot.
It’s been twenty years since the show was canceled, yet Nesmith gladly takes jobs dressing up as his famous role and reciting his renowned dialogue. The rest of the cast unwillingly participates, thankful to make a buck but depressed at the idea that their careers ended with that series. A piece of Dane dies every time he’s forced to utter his wretched catchphrase “By Grabthar’s Hammer…!” and the others manage to bicker at their lack of subsequent successes. But when a handful of imaginative fans turn out to be actual aliens (Thermian octopus creatures disguised with appearance generators) desperately searching for the hero they believe Nesmith to be (convinced by “historical document transmissions” of the program), the entire crew is recruited to stop a terrorizing genocidal warlord.
“Galaxy Quest” strives to be humorous regardless of how much knowledge audiences may have of “Star Trek” or comparable sci-fi flicks, parodying recognizable aspects of past-their-prime actors, characters in-over-their-heads, and celebrities with trampled egos. Ingenious casting accomplishments find disparate minds constantly clashing, adding to the hilarity without resorting to contrivances. Sigourney Weaver, who played perhaps the greatest cinematic heroine of all time as Ripley in the “Alien” franchise, is the exact opposite here, hysterically embodying a useless blonde with a remarkable rack. And Sam Rockwell appears as the whiny generic extra (Crewman #6), an expendable guest star who is always on the verge of tears when he realizes that no one knows his name. It’s one of the funniest elements of the film, surely ripped from Bill Paxton’s Hudson in “Aliens.” With such an entertaining cast and premise (not too dissimilar from John Landis’ “Three Amigos”), it’s no wonder “Galaxy Quest” has found a cult status that ironically mirrors its own satirizing of fandom and waning stardom.
– Mike Massie