Another Look: Galaxy Quest (***1/2) still good, almost great

Galaxy Quest – 1999

Director Dean Parisot
Screenplay David Howard, Robert Gordon
Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Daryl Mitchell, Rainn Wilson, Justin Long, Enrico Colantoni, Robin Sachs

It’s a movie that is very fondly remembered, especially when one considers the cast. Galaxy Quest has been on my list to watch for a while, and it took being quarantined to finally get to watching. When I did finally sit down to enjoy it, it took three attempts to get through. This is not something I would ever do to, say, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

The story is about the acting crew of the show, Galaxy Quest, present and appearing at a convention. Everyone is waiting on Jason Nesmith (Allen) who played the Shatner-like captain of the ship in the series. The rest of the actors barely tolerate his ego and constant side deals he works for more money.

One of these side deals turns out to be representatives of the Thermians, an alien race who do not understand the concept of acting, or deception of any kind. This group calls Allen up to their space station, and eventually the rest of the team, too.

From here it’s a matter of the fabled captain and his team to broker a peace deal with an antagonistic race of reptilian humanoids bent on destroying the Thermians. Enrico Colantoni is memorable as the leader of the Thermians, and his adversary is a quite effective Robin Sachs. Their subsequent portrayals really does make one feel for the Thermians constant oppression.

I have never been a huge Tim Allen fan. He’s done some good work, but just about everything he does, outside of Buzz Lightyear, is a variation on his Home Improvement persona. Not a bad wheelhouse, but not fantastic either. His actor playing Commander Peter Quincy Taggart is good enough for a movie of this caliber. The challenge for me is Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman.

She quite intentionally looks fantastic in her role as the buxom blonde Gwen Demarco. Anyone who has seen her in literally anything else knows she’s capable of way more than Demarco’s character would be allowed to portray in the original series. When we see Demarco really pressed into action, it’s almost expected that she might take more of a leadership role, or at least be offering up ideas.

Rickman’s tortured thespian Alexander Dane plays a Spock like Dr. Lazarus. It would make sense to keep his character a little on the softer side. We have no need to make him amazingly brilliant, strong or brave. We at least get some of the brave part.

The challenge in having two actors of the Weaver and Rickman sharing top billing, it would have been nice to have one of them move a little more to the forefront. The script, as good as it is in having the characters need to actually learn their parts from the show in practical application for their real adventure is nice.

They do have Rockwell move beyond his thoughts that, as a character with no name, he’s destined to die first on an away mission. The script nicely makes his a fluid situation, changing as the characters move through to suit the needs of the action. Just a nudge in favor of Weaver and Rickman would have been nice.

Tony Shalhoub and Daryl Mitchell are good where they are, given they have a steeper learning curve as the pilot and engineer. Mitchell straight up has a big challenge just learning to steer out of the space station. Shalhoub’s such a great actor, he just moves into some meta-phase. He spends the film moving from a lack of self worth, to feeling alright, to being in love with no winking irony. His might be the best character in the story.

For his part, Parisot crafts together a pretty good film out of not much more than a clever premise. Not sure how a race that does not know about deception can change their shape to not scare humans, but that’s negligible. The rest of the film is a nicely compact story. If only the scriptwriters could have done more to punch up the story to match the superior acting talent, this might be a classic.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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