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GALAXY QUEST (1999) (***1/2)

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The key to a great spoof is to understand what you are spoofing and love it. Screenwriters David Howard and Robert Green must love STAR TREK, because they nail every aspect of this send-up of the classic sci-fi TV series. This always felt like a film made by fans for fans.

"Galaxy Quest" the TV series has been off the air for some time now, but the fan base is still avid. The cast makes the rounds at conventions, most of them wishing they were doing something else. Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen, THE SANTA CLAUSE) was the star, playing Kirk-like Capt. Taggart. Sir Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) was a Shakespearian actor before landing the role of the alien Dr. Lazarus. He has come to loathe his most famous line, "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!" Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver, ALIEN) played Lt. Tawny Madison, who was best know for her low-cut uniform than anything else. Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub, TV's MONK) played Tech Sgt. Chen and takes everything in stride. Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU) was a kid when he was on the show playing pilot wunderkind Lt. Laredo, now he can't get acting work. The supporting cast resents Nesmith's diva attitude and his rapport with the fans.

Then at a convention, Nesmith overhears some guys laughing at him for being a washed up has-been. His cocky attitude fades. After a night of drinking, he wakes up the next morning with whom he believes are filmmakers, wanting him to appear in their low budget production, at his door. In reality, they are aliens who have based their entire civilization and technology on the historical documents (i.e. "Galaxy Quest" episodes) beamed to their planet from Earth. Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni, TV's VERONICA MARS) is their leader. Their culture is threatened to be wiped out by the evil Gen. Roth'h'ar Sarris (Robin Sachs, TV's BABYLON 5) and Mathesar begs Nesmith for his help.

Nesmith is a keen satire of the James Kirk / William Shanter persona. Allen has never been better. He makes Nesmith a charming jerk who tries to act his way through the alien encounter until things really get serious. The film also gets the fandom right as well. Brandon (Justin Long, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) is a perfect example of the obsessed fan who thinks about his favorite show way too much. The film pokes fun at Trekkie-like fans while rewarding their dedication in the end. Sam Rockwell (THE MATCHSTICK MAN) plays Guy Fleegman, who has turned his one appearance on the show into a nice gig working the convention circuit. Guy's fear that his tragic fate on the series will play out again in real life is very funny and plays tribute to all the red shirts on STAR TREK nicely. The film even gets some nice pokes at general sci-fi clichés as well. Who build booby traps anyway?

From its perfect cast to its great writing to its first rate visual effects (much better than STAR TREK ever had), GALAXY QUEST is often hilarious while being a rousing adventure at the same time. The filmmakers know all the targets to poke fun at, but they don't look down on the characters like the jerks at the convention do. Like any good adventure, the hero has to overcome his issues to succeed. Capt. Taggart has a steeper hill to climb than some. But he'll never give up and never surrender.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks