Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Galaxy Quest

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a trekkie. In fact, before seeing a smattering of the original series and the first two films in the franchise in anticipation of J.J. Abrams' enjoyable reboot last summer, I had never seen a scrap of Star Trek. I have always pledged allegiance to George Lucas and his Star Wars universe, despite how much he desecrates the legacy in the future. I can't help it, I was born into it. I will no doubt spend my final breaths defending Revenge of the Sith. But I digress.

The Star Trek that I have seen has charmed me in its earnest proseltyzing and utter geekiness. I like how the world is based in some sort of scientific fact. There is at least an attempt at explaining the peculiarities. There are also myriad tropes that appear time and again within the show's universe that become familiar friends as you learn the Universe's language. (I mean that metaphorically, I'm not even close to taking a linguistics course in Klingon.) This brief introduction to the series was more than enough to prepare me for the inside jokes and affectionate parodying of Galaxy Quest, easily the greatest non-animated Tim Allen movie of all time.

I had heard of Galaxy Quest for years before only recently catching up with it.  Most of the praise beamed my way was from my hopelessly geeky older brother who saw it in an empty theatre when it opened back in 1999.  He went on a lark with little expectations and was completely blown away, rolling on the floor in laughter within minutes.  On many occasions in the ensuing decade he would regale me with some Galaxy Quest anecdote.  I steered clear.  You see, my big brother and I agree completely on about two-thirds of art but on that other third we are diametrically opposed.  He hates Bob Dylan and was indifferent to the Wire.  That's all I'm saying*.  I figured Galaxy Quest fell into that black hole.  How wrong I was.

The plot of Galaxy Quest is that of a thinly-disguised Star Trek cast actually being sent to outer space to help an alien race fend off a vicious insectoid villain and his army.  The aliens mistook transmissions of the long-cancelled show as documents of heroic battles fought many years ago on Earth, not cheap syndicated teleplays.  Tim Allen plays the Kirk-esque commander and he is wonderful.  His unwarranted braggadocio and cocky swagger are perfect for the clueless captain.  The supporting cast too is a treasure trove.  Tony Shalhoub as a stoned Scotty; Sigourney Weaver as a Uhura with few lines (on the fictional show) but ample cleavage; Alan Rickman as a serious thespian remembered solely for his Spock-like alien; and the amazing Sam Rockwell as a one-off red shirt (heretofore unseen extra who is beamed down to that week's planet and inevitably dies a grisly death) who inadvertently joins the fun.

The movie perfectly straddles a fine line of mocking the tropes of Star Trek and the lives of its legions of fans while showing a sincere love for the world and its followers as well.  It's meta without being pretentious, geeky without being marginal and hilarious without being vindictive.  It is truly my favorite Star Trek film (J.J. Abrams's too apparently) despite it not actually being affiliated with the series.  Hopefully we muster up the courage to show Galaxy Quest as a future Metro Classic.  Until then, rent it (or win it this week thanks to Scarecrow), glue on your Spock ears, snuggle up to your loved ones proceed to pee your Underoos in mirth.

*We both don't dig Mad Men so that counts for something.

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