VOD film review: Galaxy Quest (1999)
Mark Harrison | On 29, May 2021
Director: Dean Parisot
Cast: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Enrico Colantoni, and Justin Long
There are many things that make 1999’s Galaxy Quest special but, most of all, it’s the kind of parody that’s a good, workable version of what it’s parodying. It’s no fluke that fans of Star Trek have effectively adopted the film into the canon of the franchise; even though there were enough Next Generation film spin-offs to be getting on with earlier in the 1990s, none of those films was about them as much as this one.
Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and the late, great Alan Rickman, the film finds the unfulfilled stars of the fictional 1980s sci-fi series Galaxy Quest plodding around the convention circuit, frustrated by the narcissism of lead Jason Nesmith (Allen). However, among the show’s fans are a race of soft-spoken aliens called Thermians, who think the Trek-alike show was a documentary about real heroes. And so, while a hungover Jason thinks he’s agreeing to appear in their fan film, he inadvertently gets himself and the rest of the cast into a battle with ruthless alien warlord Sarris.
It’s not a totally original and unique plot – it’s the sci-fi rendition of what we’d previously seen in 1986’s Three Amigos and would see again in 2007’s Tropic Thunder, but with its casting, writing, and the tightrope sci-fi-comedy tone it maintains, it’s also the best, funniest version of the premise.
As wrangled by director Dean Parisot, it effectively poses as a celebration of adventure shows like Star Trek rather than a spoof, and it’s hilarious without ever being either mean-spirited about the subject or inaccessible to general audiences. Altogether, it’s one of the last snapshots of pop culture before the geek inherited the Earth in the 2000s and 2010s and it’s aged all the better for it.
It’s not as simple as having the perfect cast (original director Harold Ramis – understandably – had reservations about Tim Allen and quit the project) or the perfect script (producers at DreamWorks frequently intervened to turn this into their family-friendly competitor to films such as Stuart Little and The Rugrats Movie) but it works out for the best anyway, thanks to Parisot keeping things ticking over entertainingly and an ensemble on the form of their lives.
While Allen has never been the most natural screen actor, he gives his greatest film performance here as a Shatner-esque figure, and it’s just as well, because you’d notice if he weren’t as good as the likes of Rickman, Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and Sam Rockwell. There are fun turns for Justin Long and Missi Pyle too, but the real standout is Enrico Colantoni, who effectively created the Thermians’ genial voices and mannerisms for his audition, creating a comprehensive character for his co-stars to mimic.
As explored in the excellent 20th-anniversary documentary Never Surrender, the film is beloved by general audiences and geeks alike. If you’ve never seen Trek or any of the sci-fi tropes it’s spoofing, its gentle ribbing of cult TV and fandom is still funny and engaging.
In this column, we’ve looked at many films from the 1990s that don’t hold up as well in hindsight, but the first thing that strikes you upon revisiting this is that everything works. It’s every member of the cast and crew in the right place at the right time, making the right movie. Galaxy Quest is simply one of the greatest comedies of the decade.