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"GALAXY QUEST"
(1999) (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy/Sci-fi: A group of aliens mistakenly believe that some disillusioned actors from a defunct sci-fi TV show are real space heroes and recruit them to battle a ruthless galactic villain.
PLOT:
Twenty some years after the sci-fi TV show "Galaxy Quest" last aired, its popularity seemingly hasn't waned one bit. While that's good news for those who run the related conventions across the country, the core group of actors who trek from one such gathering of "Questarians" to the next are disillusioned and getting tired of the routine.

There's Gwen DeMarco (SIGOURNEY WEAVER), who played the buxom Lt. Tawny Madison, Fred Kwan (TONY SHALHOUB) who played Tech Sergeant Chen, Tommy Webber (DARYL MITCHELL) who played Lt. Laredo as the boy wonder navigator, and Alexander Dane (ALAN RICKMAN), a Shakespearean actor who embodied the half-human, half-alien, Dr. Lazarus.

While they generally get along, they collectively despise their former "leader," Jason Nesmith (TIM ALLEN) who played the gung-ho but melodramatic Commander Peter Quincy Taggart. While Nesmith enjoys playing up to the legion of fans who still love and admire his character, some overheard remarks about being a has-been puts him into a tailspin that sends him to the bottle and ends with him being awakened the next morning with a hangover on his living room floor.

It's there that a quartet of apparent show fanatics, fronted by Mathesar (ENRICO COLANTONI), approach Nesmith once again after having met him the day before. Believing them to be escorts to his next "Quest" gig, the bleary-eyed actor accompanies the foursome, who turn out to be Thermians from some distant galaxy, onto their ship. There, he nonchalantly engages in space battle with their arch-nemesis, Sarris (ROBIN SACHS), a towering and malicious, bug-like villain intent on ridding the universe of all Thermians.

Nesmith believes all of this to be some sort of impressive fan-related production, but when he's literally sent flying back through space to Earth, he suddenly realizes it was real. Of course his perturbed co-stars don't believe a word of his story, but he eventually convinces them, despite their inherent disbelief and mistrust, to return to space with him.

Once there, and accompanied by Guy Fleegman (SAM ROCKWELL), a convention host and one-time extra on the show, the actors learn that the Thermians long-ago intercepted TV signals of "Galaxy Quest," believing them to be historical documents regarding real characters and real events.

Fashioning their society after that featured in the show, and even building a spacecraft, the Protector, similarly based on the special effect model, the Thermians have recruited Taggart and his crew in hopes that they'll help defeat Sarris and his marauding forces. Eventually realizing the scope and danger of that request, the crew of actors decides to do what they can to defend the Thermians and defeat Sarris and his troops.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
If ever there was a genre and the legion of fans obsessed with it that needed to be brought back down to Earth by a clever spoof, no pun intended, it's the whole world of space-based, sci-fi movies and TV shows. There's obviously no denying their popularity or longevity, especially in the hearts and minds of those who live and die by what has or still occurs in such programs and films. Nevertheless, the thought and/or sight of such people often stirs up the "get a life" thoughts in the rest of us.

Of course the granddaddy of all such shows is the original "Star Trek" TV series that aired in the 1960s and subsequently spawned even more TV programs, many theatrical movies and an entire cottage industry related to the numerous worldwide conventions related to all of that.

Due to the inherent melodramatic trappings of the original show and much of the related acting that occurred within it and other such shows and movies, TV sketch shows like "Saturday Night Live" long ago realized that "Star Trek" and its kin were ripe for the picking. Yet beyond those brief sketches and other similar short parodies, there haven't been many full-length, "Airplane" like spoofs about the genre.

Sure, there was Mel Brooks' "Star Wars" parody, "Spaceballs," the outer space scenes in "Airplane II," and even the documentary "Trekkies" that was unintentionally the funniest of them all, but even so, there seemed to be a void of any truly clever, full-length send-ups of the genre. That is, until the release of "Galaxy Quest."

A mostly entertaining and clever, if not fully realized spoof of "Star Trek," the film is one of those rare parodies that actually manages to stand on its own and not evaporate once it gets past its initial satirical set up. Of course the more familiar one is with the "Trek" world, the far more enjoyable the experience will turn out to be.

From the title that's just a clever spin on the original, to the gung-ho and melodramatic captain (who obviously ends up shirtless at one point) and self-references to the silliness of the many plots, the devices within them, and the die-hard fans, this film offers plenty of amusing moments.

For starters, the basic premise is one of those brilliantly clever, high concept ideas that sounds good enough to ensure that studios will pay the big bucks to snag it for themselves and put it into flight. Indeed, this isn't some cheesy spoof, but an obviously big-budget, high production value flick with some great looking special effects.

Yet it's the premise that will lure in moviegoers. The notion of a disillusioned bunch of has-been actors from an old sci-fi show being recruited by an alien race that's intercepted the "historical documents" (the beamed TV signals) detailing the crews' brave, adventurous and always victorious activities is quite clever.

Although the film purposefully never attains the frenetic and rapid-fire pace of delivering as many jokes as possible as did the "Airplane" pictures, there are still plenty of funny moments. The best, of course, pertain directly to the "Trek" world. One character, amusing played by Sam Rockwell ("The Green Mile," "Lawn Dogs") and who only appeared in a single episode in which he died before the commercial break because he was nothing more than an expendable extra -- constantly worries about the same happening here. That's especially true since his TV character (that he's now playing for these aliens) doesn't have a last name - a surefire clue that his demise is certain.

Then there's the character whose only task is to be the go between from the commander to the computer and then back again, the point that humans always (at least on the old shows) land on planets and just get out and walk around without worrying about whether the air is breathable or not, and that countdown clocks to some sort of destruction always stop with the counter at one. All of those points and more are amusingly and sometimes hilariously "examined" here.

Even so, and despite the film hitting plenty of the right notes, director Dean Parisot ("Home Fries"), who works from the script by screenwriters Robert Gordon ("Addicted to Love") and David Howard (his first produced screenplay), doesn't take it quite far enough to the "bleeding edge" to make it as clever or "bust a gut" hilarious as it could have been.

While they obviously didn't want Tim Allen ("For Richer or Poorer," "Jungle2Jungle") to go too far with the William Shatner shtick (the actor his character is partially modeled after), they could have included a greater number of his more melodramatic moments (always kissing the alien women) as well as comments about being the only performer to have a career outside the sci-fi world (such as Shatner with "T.J. Hooker").

They also missed (purposefully or not) the opportunity for some sci-fi related humor originating from outside the "Trek" world. With the presence of Sigourney Weaver (who appeared in the four "Alien" films) the most obvious would have been some sort of inclusion of material from that series (such as Sigourney's character running into such an alien space creature onboard the alien ship, or, obviously including the old "alien in the chest" scene). Unfortunately, none of that occurs.

In addition, there should have been some moments regarding the crew's disdain toward their "replacements" in the "Galaxy Quest: The Next Generation" series, or even toward that other sci-fi movie series, "Galaxy Battles" (meaning "Star Wars") that's received so much recent - and in their minds, unwarranted -- attention.

Finally, the aliens - nicely fronted by Enrico Colantoni ("Stigmata," the TV show "Just Shoot Me") - are perhaps a bit too much like the old Conehead characters (especially in their somewhat monotone and fractured vocal patterns), and the rest of the crew characters, played by Tony Shalhoub ("A Civil Action," "The Impostors"), Daryl Mitchell ("10 Things I Hate About You," "Home Fries") and the fabulous Alan Rickman ("Dogma," "Die Hard"), aren't developed enough in a comic sense to make them more amusing than their initial set-up (such as Rickman being the sarcastic, frowning and eye-rolling character who hates how the show has typecast him forever).

Nonetheless, those are mostly minor nitpickings and despite the feeling that the film never quite achieves warp speed in terms of sheer wit and parody, what's present is quite clever, often funny and obviously extremely enjoyable. In addition, the fact that the movie manages to stand on its own above and beyond its satirized target, makes it just that much more entertaining. As such, we give "Galaxy Quest" a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed December 21, 1999 / Posted December 25, 1999


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