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DVD Review: Galaxy Quest

April 11th, 2003

The idea is not new, but it is served up absolutely fresh in this movie: a troupe of actors who did a sci-fi show many years ago as a short-term gig find themselves only able to get work at conventions and computer-store openings (“By Grabthar’s hammer… what a savings.”). Then suddenly, without warning, they find themselves on a real spaceship, with real aliens, fighting real bad guys.

The characters are closely modeled after not just the Star Trek roles, but also by the actors who played them. Tim Allen is the egocentric, washed up ham actor who played the captain. His alien first officer is portrayed, with a delightful deadpan performance, by Alan Rickman (“Give him a hand, he’s British!”). Sigourney Weaver is similar to Star Trek’s Uhura, in that her job is basically reporting what someone else says (“Look, I have one job on this lousy ship. It’s stupid, but I’m gonna do it, okay?”); Weaver’s character throws in gratuitous cleavage. The cast if filled out by Tony Shalhoub as the almost eerily calm engineer (“Hey guys, I just wanted you to know that, the reactors won’t take it… the ship is breaking apart and all that… Just FYI.”), Daryl Mitchell as the navigator who was a kid (can you say “Wesley Crusher”) when the series was filmed, and Sam Rockwell (now starring in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as the nameless security officer who gets killed off in the first five minutes of the episode he was in (a “red shirt” in Trek parlance).

At one convention, Allen’s character is asked to fight aliens, and thinking that it is just a gig to perform for a private video in someone’s garage, he takes them up on the offer–only to find out afterwards that he was playing captain for real. Excited at the idea of being a space captain for real, he tries to convince his co-stars of his adventures with the “Thermians,” but they think he’s just gone around the bend (“They were Termites, or Dalmations. I can’t remember, because I was hung over”). But soon, they’re all caught up in the action, helping the Thermian race to battle the evil tyrant Saris. The Thermians, you see, received and watched all the TV episodes from Earth–and believed they were all real, even “Gilligan’s Island” reruns (“Oh, those poor people!”). Basing their culture on the “historical documents” of the sci-fi TV show, they find they cannot operate their hi-tech machines well, and so they recruit the “real” space veterans to help them.

The Thermians are played wonderfully as rather awkward, inept squids in artificial human form, with suitably wooden and bizarre behavior. Saris is almost over the top as a villain, with elaborate and quite convincing makeup; you’ll understand when you see him. But the main cast gets credit for playing the Star-Trek-like cast spot on; you can easily believe they’ve been going at it for years as a group. The writing is also perfect, scoring on all the weirdness and well-known detail from TV shows like Trek (“I’m not doing it–this episode was badly written!”). Great care was also taken to define the sharp difference between fantasy and what would be reality: the spaceship sets for this movie were mounted on machines that shook and tilted the entire room so the actors didn’t have to fake being thrown about. And the actors make understandable mistakes, such as when Laredo, the navigator, cannot even leave drydock without scraping the ship against the edge of the dock for a full ten seconds (or more), or the security officer monitoring battle activity (“Hey guys… there’s a red thingy moving toward the green thingy…. I think, I think we’re the green thingy!”)

As a bonus, the DVD includes several deleted scenes, which, in my opinion, should have been left in, and in a bizarrely funny twist, the entire movie, on an alternate language track, was dubbed in Thermian–essentially, 100 minutes of people blabbering in an insane gibberish (“Blooble BEBEBEBE FWING DedleDEE!”). You’d think that it would get boring after just a few minutes, but it took me about 15 minutes to finally stop the craziness–the people who dubbed it really threw themselves into it, matching tone and babbling to the characters and their situations.

Even if you’re not a Star Trek fan, you’ll probably like this movie. If you are a Star Trek fan, you’ll love it.

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    August 6th, 2004 at 05:15 | #1


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