Whether you love "Star Trek" or laugh at it, your
starship is about to come in, docking in the form
of "Galaxy Quest," an amiable comedy that
simultaneously manages to spoof these popular
futuristic space adventures and replicate the very
elements that have made them so durable.
"Galaxy Quest," opening Saturday, spins out of a single joke, about a bunch of washed-up actors from a canceled television series who are enlisted by some credulous interplanetary simpletons to champion them in conflict with a scaly, bellicose villain who has all but exterminated their people. If "Galaxy Quest" never attains consistently giddy heights as it plays out its combination of knowing satire and heroic adventure, it nevertheless keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek, offers a few genuine laughs, moves swiftly, if not at warp speed, and is led by a talented cast.
The crew includes Tim Allen as the egotistical Jason Nesmith. To his legions of fans, he is Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart, of the immortal line "Never give up; never surrender." Sigourney Weaver, no stranger to combat with slimy space aliens, plays Gwen DeMarco, known to her fans as Lt. Tawny Madison, the voluptuous communications officer aboard Taggart's ship, Protector. And Alan Rickman is Alexander Dane, who sadly remembers that he once portrayed Richard III in the days before he signed on to become the Spock-like humanoid Dr. Lazarus.
These actors and Tony Shalhoub as Fred Kwan, alias Tech Sgt. Chen, and Daryl Mitchell as Tommy Webber, the navigator Lt. Laredo, have been reduced to signing autographs at fan shows for $15 a pop and snipping ribbons at supermarket openings when fate (directed by Dean Parisot from a script by David Howard and Robert Gordon) intervenes.
In a scene that skewers the ubiquitous "Star Trek" fan conventions, as the testy, disheartened crew copes with costumed cultists, minutiae-obsessed teen-agers and giggling groupies, Nesmith-Taggart is approached by a group of odd creatures he assumes are fans. He dismisses their monotonous babble.
The next day, after he wakes up on the floor at home, hung over after a night of solitary drinking, they whisk him off to what he thinks is another re-enactment: a negotiation as Taggart with the evil Sarris (Robin Sachs) on behalf of the gentle Thermians. But when Nesmith-Taggart is miraculously returned, he realizes that he has been aboard a genuine spaceship.
It seems that the Thermians, led by Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni), believe the courage- and principle-filled "Galaxy Quest" television episodes they have witnessed to be actual historical documents and have sought out Taggart to lead them.
"Alexander," Taggart tells the once and future Dr. Lazarus after he rises to the challenge and enlists his old crew, "this is the role of a lifetime."
So off they go, joined -- in one of the film's best comic conceptions -- by Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell), now a convention organizer but once an obscure bit player who died a quick death in episode 81.
Throughout the adventure, as the heroes do battle with Sarris and his minions, encounter cannibalistic space creatures who resemble children, face off against assorted monsters and other perils while standing between the Thermians and extinction, Fleegman remains convinced that being an unknown actor, he is fated by the laws of scriptwriting to perish once more.
In the parched comic landscape that now stretches over much of planet Earth, "Galaxy Quest" may not be a monument to the genre, but it offers a ray of hope for the future.
RATING: "Galaxy Quest" is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It includes a mildly crude word, a standard issue of space monsters and associated violence.
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