In the furthest reaches of the charted universe, in the region astronomers have labelled The Nebula Of Underrated Comedies, lies a vast supernova made up entirely of laughs that really should get far more recognition than it does. I am referring to Galaxy Quest, a magnificent spoof of Star Trek that punctures the many tropes of the show and fandom in general with such pin-point, phaser-like accuracy, it’s arguably one of the top 3 Trek movies that’s never made that’s run through a projector (amusing sidenote: in 2013 Trekkers actually voted it the 7th best Star Trek movie ever made.)
A dynamite cast working at the height of their comedic powers mixed with a genuinely heartfelt script takes the world of an undying love for a defunked sci-fi property and gives it a flashy budget and kick-ass effects to give us a movie about fan culture that would probably do much better today than it did when it first beamed down back in 1999.
Galaxy Quest is the name of a hit show that was cancelled before it’s time and still holds a loyal fanbase of rabid enthusiasts who show up at conventions to meet their heroes – their heroes, unfortunately, don’t exactly feel the same way and years of putting up with each other has left them all burnt out. Aging (but still stunning) bombshell Gwen DiMarco resents that all her character did on the show was repeat what the ship’s computer told her, grumpy thespian Alexander Dean is sick of only being famous for portraying an alien science officer, spaced out Fred Kwan seems light years away from the genius engineer he played and former child star Tommy Webber is just annoyed with the whole thing; but what unites them all in their frustration is Jason Nesmith who portrayed the charismatic Commander Peter Quincy Taggart of the NSEA Protector (catchphrase: “Never give up, never surrender!”), a man who loves his fans but loves himself a little more.
Hitting a low point after their latest falling out, Jason is approached by a gaggle of bowl-haired “fans” who are actually genuine aliens in disguise who believe Galaxy Quest is in fact a historical document and have come looking for aid when dealing with the sadistic reptilian warlord Sarris. Completely unaware that he’s in a very real scenario, Jason casually causes an Interstellar incident and then bounces while being none the wiser, but after getting beamed back home across the universe he finally catches on.
Trying to convince his uninterested cast mates as to what he’s seen, the aliens return to kindly ask him to help sort out the mess he’s made and soon all the cast – plus terrified hanger on Guy – are transported across the galaxy to fake their way through and increasingly dangerous space war while hopefully not getting killed.
So the more cynical of you may just deride the concept as just a sci-fi spin on John Landis’ Three Amigos (also a five-star banger), but Galaxy Quest wins you over by not only making you nostalgic for a show that technically doesn’t even exist, but for being a razor sharp satire based on the paradox of having sizable cult fame. Anyone who has even a passing knowledge of Star Trek will spot the numerous loving jabs Galaxy Quest takes at their expense with everything from TNG feeling the need to have a child member on the bridge to the real life love-hate relationships the original cast had with the show and each other. Alan Rickman, his head cocooned in Dr. Lazarus’ alien make up for the entire movie, lampoons Leonard Nimoy’s unbreakable relationship with Spock wonderfully and is dryer than a martini during a vermouth drought and his sullen reading of his most hated line is spun of purest comedy gold. Elsewhere, Tim Allen’s egotistical Nesmith is frankly so fucking Shatner it hurts, even shedding his shirt during a life or death struggle on a barren alien world and Sigourney Weaver once again gives a compelling reason to demand and answer to why the hell the woman isn’t known more for her sizable comedic chops. Even the smaller roles hit big with Tony Shalhoub’s relationship with an alien crew member paying off beautifully and the peerless Sam Rockwell scoring the best running joke as he remains in a constant state of fear fir virtually the entire movie while being convinced his faceless crewmember is destined to die like so many “redshirts” before him. Even the benign aliens (who count Missy Pyle and Rainn Wilson among their number) kill it and in comparison, mean, green motherfucker Sarris may look magnificent (tip of the hat to Stan Winton) but seems not much more than your basic, war mongering alien, but when you compare him to the rest of the cast, it’s obvious that he’s literally the movie’s sole straight man.
The jokes are top notch either when ripping on establish tropes of the genre (Weaver’s meltdown at a shaft that features gauntlet of clanging crushers that have no discernible function whatsoever) or induging in some toe-curling embarrassment (The excruciating moment when pilot Tommy veers too far to the left during their maiden voyage and scrapes the paint off the side of their ship) but for a comedy like this to really take off, you need heart as big as a Berelium Sphere and accomplishing that is an incredibly likeable script which is bolstered by some incredibly likeable actors. It also helps that the good aliens (actually squid-like beings named Thermians) are almost childlike in their innocence and any moments when they are put in distress is actually genuinely upsetting – check out Thermian leader Mathesar’s truly betrayed reaction when he finds out that Galaxy Quest is all fake or when a fatally wounded cadet who looks up to Alexander’s Dr. Lazarus gets a heartfelt rendition of his character’s trademark pledge (actually low-key some of the finest acting the sadly late Rickman has ever done).
Utterly jammed packed with laughs big and small (the Gilligan’s Island joke is genius – “Those poor people!”) and and some super slick visual effects that hold up far better that some of the stuff they’re parodying, it’s a shame that director Dean Parisot never reached these galactic heights again in his career (a ton of tv work along with Red 2 and Bill And Ted Face The Music) but nevertheless, if the out of this world delights of Galaxy Quest hasn’t beamed you up yet, then by Grabthar’s hammer, you must see this damn film!