Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Galaxy Quest (Parisot, 1999)

Galaxy Quest is a film with one of those premises that movie executives must love. What if the cast of a science-fiction television show was forced to travel to space and fend off malicious aliens in real life? It is easy to imagine the comic possibilities as we see actors attempt to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality. Ripping off as much as possible from Star Trek while still avoiding copyright infringement, Galaxy Quest assembles a talented group of actors (and Tim Allen) for a lightweight comedy adventure that is palatable enough, though not terribly ambitious.

We get the expected gags, such as backstage grumpiness from Alan Rickman’s character, a classically trained thespian who refuses to utter the catch phrase that made him famous, and a degrading appearance at the opening of a new retail store. Most of these moments work well enough because the cast attacks the material with exuberance and commitment. Tony Shalhoub’s ship maintenance specialist is a captivatingly odd creation, as we wonder to ourselves if he is perpetually baked or just acts that way naturally. We know for the entire length of the film that Rickman’s character will eventually be placed in a situation where he will rediscover the freshness of his catch-phrase and deliver it with gusto. When it finally occurs, it happens perhaps not quite as we had expected as Rickman demonstrates the way a great actor can find truth in even the silliest material. What is Sam Rockwell doing here? He doesn’t know. We don’t know, but what the heck. He’s good for a few moments of memorable oddness, even if his character is utterly superfluous.

But ultimately, the star of this show for me was an actor with which I had not been previously familiar. Enrico Colantoni as the lead alien, Mathesar, delivers a thoroughly satisfying comedic performance, adopting a bizarre high-pitched cadence and beaming with sincerity and optimism. His choices are peculiar and bold without becoming irritating or phony. I also enjoyed how the alien creatures moved, as if they were still unaccustomed to their adopted bodies, and the striking gaze of Missi Pyle’s Laliari, pitched somewhere between Milla Jovovich and Jim Carrey.

Although it has its share of comedic moments, Galaxy Quest also has an adventure plotline that is every bit as silly and formulaic as the shows the film is parodying. Naturally, this is intentional, but we, as an audience, are forced to endure it. When Sigourney Weaver’s character observes that it’s ridiculous that her only job is to repeat what the computer has said or that the crushing devices in the hallway of the starport are illogical, does that make the rudimentary action more bearable? Well, kind of. But too often, I felt like the film was making a joke and then pointing out that it had just made a joke in case I had missed it.

It’s hard to feel strongly about Galaxy Quest either positively or negatively. It takes a decent premise and a winsome cast and then coasts along. I suppose there is some joy to be had in laughing at dorky TV shows and the dorky people who obsess over them, but it’s a shallow pleasure at best.



Blogger RC said...

i usually don't go for films like this, but i've got admit...i very much enjoy galaxy quest.

10:07 PM  

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