Sometimes when I feel lazy I sit on the couch and flip through satellite TV
channels. One of my discoveries is a station called Granada Plus. In the
daytime it airs a lot of the programmes that I saw when growing up -- cop
shows like "Starsky and Hutch" and "Cagney and Lacey", as well as
science-fiction fare like "The Time Tunnel", "The Incredible Hulk", "The Six
Million Dollar Man", "Lost in Space" and "Star Trek".
I thought of such delicious pieces of pop culture while watching "Galaxy
Quest". The movie opens at a comic book convention, where the celebrity
guests were performers in a very "Star Trek"-like TV show called, well,
"Galaxy Quest". It was cancelled in the early 1980s, and now its actors are
out of work, spending their time showing up at gigs to sign autographs. Main
star Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), who bears a suspicious resemblance to William
Shatner, is a goofball who drinks too much and takes his fans' affections for
granted. Blonde bombshell Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) still laments that
interviewers only ever asked her about her breasts. Classically-trained
thespian Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) is known for his moaning: "I played
Hamlet once!" he wails into the mirror.
These guys, along with three other former cast members, run into some
strange-looking fans who talk in robotic voices and make jittery movements.
They make a plea of Jason, which he interprets as a request for another star
appearance. As it turns out, though, this band of admirers are actually
aliens who have seen and admired "Galaxy Quest" from outer space, believing
it to be a set of historical documents. They want help from their heroes to
battle their intergalactic foes.
After a period of initial shock, Jason excitedly leaps into this opportunity.
"It'll be fun! Just like being on the show!" His colleagues have to take him
aside to remind him that they are not real space warriors, just actors. Not a
problem, it turns out: The friendly aliens' spaceships have been modelled on
those of "Galaxy Quest", and the controls have been based on the actors'
What I love about this movie is that it replicates the feel, structure and
rhythm of sci-fi adventures with a rejuvenating sense of lightheartedness. In
other words, it's as exciting as those old shows were from a kid's point of
view, and very funny, too. The film has a lot of self-referential dialogue,
but that's nothing new any more -- its general sense of whimsy is much more
enjoyable. And it has a moment I've been waiting to see for years: Instead of
the spaceship pulling out of its tiny loading bay with perfect ease, the
pilot ends up bumping it against the wall, and having to say "Oops! Sorry!"
The cast is terrific. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tony
Shalhoub are familiar faces, and look so out of their depth in the middle of
all this silliness that of course we find ourselves smirking. They also
create characters we care about. Just because they're in a comedy doesn't
mean they turn into robots who spit out one-liners -- they interact like real
people, making everything they have to deal with just that little bit more
absurd, and entertaining.
Copyright © 2000 UK Critic