Galaxy Quest

by Ealasaid Haas

When was the last time you saw a movie that caused the entire audience to burst into spontaneous applause as the credits started to roll? When was the last time that movie was a science-fiction comedy? I've seen Galaxy Quest a handful of times now, as have several of my friends, and we all report the same thing: everyone laughs, and everyone claps at the end.

Even the non-Trekkers.

Oh, sure, if you're a Star Trek fan, or have ever been to a science fiction convention, you'll probably laugh twice as hard as someone who hasn't. But even if you're not, Galaxy Quest is a fantastic movie.

The plot is fairly straightforward: the cast of a long-since-canceled-but-still-a-big-hit TV show, "Galaxy Quest" are making a living mostly from convention appearances. They get recruited by one set of aliens, who think the show was a documentary, to fight another set of aliens, who happen to be really nasty. The nice aliens have even built a working replica of the "Galaxy Quest" spaceship, the Protector - reverse engineered from the shows. So the cast have to dredge up their memories of the button layouts they made up to pass the time during filming, and try to save the day.

The entire cast is a delight. Tim Allen, as the arrogant putz who played the captain, does a credible William Shatner take-off without making his character too one-note. Sigourney Weaver, cast completely against what most people think of as her type, plays Gwen DeMarco, the stunning blonde whose role in the show was mostly to look sexy - which she does. Weaver also looks intelligent, and it's easy to see why Gwen is simultaneously grateful for the attention and frustrated by the limitations of being known chiefly because of that single role. Alan Rickman is brilliant as ever in the role of Alexander Dane, whose character was the show's half-human Spock-equivalent. Dane is bitter and wonderfully British. The good aliens are led by Mathesar, played by Enrico Colantoni. He and the other alien actors manage to be obviously alien without resorting to latex or silly hair - they look a little odd, but their thought processes are completely perpendicular to humans' and the actors do a great job of showing it.

The rest of the film lives up to the standard of excellence set by the cast. The effects (except for those seen in the various "Galaxy Quest" clips) are very good, and in several cases, remarkably innovative (to go into details would spoil some of the film's surprises, however, so you'll just have to take my word for it).

The movie's real strength lies in the careful balance it strikes between satirizing shows like Star Trek and showing us what was great about them. The fans ("Questarians," please, not "Questies!") are simultaneously mocked for their fanaticism and honored for their intelligence and knowledge (of course, as a fan myself, I may be reading in more of the latter than the film makers intended). As silly as scifi can be at times, it's also a lot of fun, from the aliens and gadgets to the way everything always boils down to the better human qualities: trust, teamwork, and the rest. Galaxy Quest may poke fun at Star Trek, but it openly shares many of the same elements, and is better for it.

And of course, it's always fun watching starships blow stuff up.

The bottom line is, Galaxy Quest is a terrific film from top to bottom. If you're looking for a movie to make you laugh out loud, and leave you smiling, Galaxy Quest is right.
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