Monday, December 13, 2010

Back in Time Reviews: Galaxy Quest (1999)

"Articles on sci-fi films should focus on the deep philosophical roots of the work, not the creepy sexualized fan culture it inspires." ~ Fake AP Stylebook

The great thing about Galaxy Quest is that it's a geek tv show inside a geek movie all covered over with a fondant of satire. The basic concept is that a short-run 80s science fiction TV show called "Galaxy Quest" is living a half-life in the convention circuit, like Star Trek in the 70s and Battlestar Galactica in the 90s. (Yes, feel free to cite other examples in the comments: Lost in Space, etc.) There is the friction among the cast members that you would expect in such a situation - inequality of their star power, the serious actor who feels this has ruined their career (think Alec Guiness), the co-stars who seem trapped in this life and sort of aimless. The twist comes in when the lead actor Jason Nesmith (a la Bill Shatner) who played Commander Taggert on the show (a la Captain Kirk) tells his co-stars that he has actually been on an alien ship - and that the aliens believe they are really the characters from the show. Without giving too much away we can just say "hilarity ensues." Sort of a modern geekling Comedy of Errors.

When I consider the impact of movies one of the metrics is "quoting." Do I still quote this movie 11 years later? Oh, heck yes. Pretty much every character has a line worth repeating at some point. You will find yourself teasing your friends in tense moments with Guy's, "Did you guys ever WATCH the show?" Frustrations at work will be met with Gwen's voice in your head saying, "Look! I have one job on this lousy ship, it's *stupid*, but I'm gonna do it! Okay?"

One of my other metrics for a movie is the number of high profile actors. As you may have noticed often there is an INVERSE relationship between the number of 'stars' and the quality of a movie. Somehow Galaxy Quest manages to defeat this curse. Which stars am I talking about? Probably some of your favorites. Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story), Sigourney Weaver (Ripley from Alien), Alan Rickman (Snape in Harry Potter), Tony Shalhoub (Monk from the TV show Monk), Sam Rockwell (Zaphod Beeblebrox in the latest Hitchhiker's Guide - not his best role, but one of his sci-fi ones), Daryl Mitchell (Dexter on The John Larroquette Show), Enrico Colantoni (Eliot from Just Shoot Me!), Patrick Breen (Reggie from MIB), Missi Pyle (Mrs. Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), and Justin Long (pretty much every movie that's come out for 10 years, also the Mac in Mac vs. PC ads). And that was just listing one thing from each actor's resume. I could write a whole page on Alan Rickman alone (or, as Kevin Smith calls him, Hans-f'ing-Gruber).

So, in summary - hilarious geekgasm of a movie. Highly recommended.

The Commander's Rating: Five out of five Vulcan salutes.
Pros: Every last little bit of it. Concept, script, actors - it's all brilliant.
Cons: If you aren't a geek you won't get it. If you haven't been to a science fiction convention you won't get parts of it. 
Recommendation: If you're a geek and haven't seen this, GET ON IT. If you're not a geek but know a geek, watch it to understand them a little better through the power of humor. If you're not a geek and don't know a geek, well, you're probably not reading this blog. 


  1. "I was an actor once, damn it. Now look at me."

    And, Sam Rockwell's best sci-fi film so far is Moon. #justsayin'

  2. I'm ashamed. I should be watching this, but just got caught up on the new Doctor Who.

    Incidentally, there's one ep of nuWho which ends with the Doc trying to get to a switchoff valve that is inexplicably located behind a bunch of accelerated cooling fans and I immediately thought of Galaxy Quest...

  3. What's my LAST NAME? Do you know what my LAST NAME IS? Oh my God I die in this episode! I love this movie. And kudos to you!

  4. "You have a last name, Guy!" Thanks for dropping by Nina.

    Nev - I haven't caught up with the latest Dr. Who yet (Matt), but hear good things. And if they are acknowledging GQ, even better.

    ST - Still haven't seen Moon yet even though hubs managed to catch it on cable one weekend while I slept in. Yes, I had #geekfail.

  5. I'm many days late and dollars short on this, but hey, it's a review of a movie from 12 years ago so no big deal, right?

    What a great post! Galaxy Quest is one of my all time favorite movies. I quote it constantly to mostly blank faces in response so I was beyond thrilled with this post and to learn that others find words of quotable wisdom within the script of Galaxy Quest.

    "Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!"

    This was fun! Thanks so much!

  6. Thanks Ann!

    And an update for SparkTrader - saw Moon a few weeks ago and IT IS AWESOME. Thanks for the recommendation. :)