POP HAZMAT CULT MOVIES WE ADORE! GALAXY QUEST posted by Jonathan Kieran
A sweeping modern fairy-tale is born with the Rowan Blaize series of books!
Book One = The magical cornerstone – a lavishly illustrated epic poem and “spell” to treasure for a lifetime, telling the story of sorcerer Rowan Blaize’s fall from power. (Think Beowulf-meets-Dr.Seuss)
Book Two = The rip-roaring novel that continues the adventures of Rowan Blaize and introduces the three hilarious witches of the Ancient City, along with its dysfunctional werewolves, wraiths, ghosts, vampires, dryads, banshees and a beauty pageant brat that might just destroy the world.
Book Three = The novel that finds Rowan trapped by a spell in another world, caught between a faery-squashing sorceress who’ll stop at nothing to conquer the kingdom … and a feisty teenage prince who’s determined to get it back.
POP HAZMAT HALL OF FAME: CULT MOVIES WE ADORE!
TODAY’S ILLUSTRIOUS HONOREE: GALAXY QUEST (1999) DreamWorks. Posted by JONATHAN KIERAN
GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, etc.
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Few contemporary satirical films ever manage to truly “send-up” a particular cinematic genre with any kind of enduring quality. Christopher Guest’s series of so-called “mockumentaries” (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, etc.) are almost all uniformly brilliant, but they tend to satirize different forms of American entertainment, rather than specific film categories. The first Scary Movie installment did a halfway decent job of spoofing slasher-films, but any impact it may have had was diminished due to the overkill (pun intended) of several stultifying sequels and roughly a thousand other moribund “parody-flicks” that subsequently tried to capitalize on the churn-’em-out trend of lambasting blockbusters of every description. The sight of blowsy Jennifer Coolidge in Epic Movie, heaving her gargantuan bosom and lisping half-baked, pedestrian one-liners as the “White Witch of Narnia” was probably enough to sink the listing ship of foolish mock-the-box-office pics for at least a few decades. We should thank her for rendering such a valuable service.
One film, however, that seems to have danced to perfection the delicate pas de deux required to satirize with a blend of scathing humor and genuine affection is 1999’s fabulous Galaxy Quest. The movie was a both a critical and financial success upon release and its reputation has grown deservedly over the years. Essentially a satire of the Star Trek franchise, its enthusiastic fan-base, and of the “fanboy” culture in general, Galaxy Quest brought together a disparate and almost improbable troupe of gifted actors who managed to stun audiences with a tour de force of comedic charisma. The premise was deviously delicious: a group of past-their-prime actors who had once starred on a popular spaceship-adventure TV series are in the doldrums, making the rounds of comic-book and autograph-signing conventions that are populated by the earnest admirers only science fiction and fantasy genres can engender. Their lives aren’t exactly difficult, but each of the former stars is struggling with the pitfalls and personal repercussions of parading around as a cult figure based upon a fictional character that hasn’t been relevant in years. (Spare a thought for those slightly befuddled actors who really do have to earn a living sitting behind tables at today’s fan conventions — Galaxy Quest captures the poignancy of that circumstance with sharp-but-empathic humor.) In any case, our seemingly “has-been” heroes find themselves suddenly kidnapped by the Thermians — actual alien beings who, like fans, have obsessed “from afar” over the power of the old TV show’s episodes (“The Histories”), the spaceship, and the indomitability of its “crew”. The Thermians (squid-like creatures who seem to take the forms of Jehovah’s Witnesses on high doses of Prozac) believe that only this motley bunch of actors possesses the mettle to save their species from extinction at the hands of a hostile reptilian race led by a villain named Sarris, who appears to be the love-child of the original Star Trek’s “Gorn” and one of the rubbery old Sleestaks from Sid & Marty Krofft’s The Land of the Lost. The hilarity kicks into hyper-space gear as the old show’s players discover that they are expected to reassume their fictional roles aboard … you guessed it: a mammoth real-life “duplicate” of their old TV starship, which was originally made out of plastic and a couple of ping pong balls.
It helped that the writing for Galaxy Quest was superb. David Howard and Robert Gordon kept things imaginative, razor-sharp and continually affectionate in terms of showing respect for the Star Trek series itself and for the unwavering dedication and near-scholarly knowledge of its legions of fans. The cast had to have been a film-maker’s dream, for this sort of project. Funnyman Tim Allen (Home Improvement) swaggered, scowled, bared his chest, and paused theatrically as the captain — bringing just the right mix of pathos and comedic timing to properly spoof William Shatner without mocking him. Sigourney Weaver shows up completely against type as the ship’s blonde, buxom, jaded and somewhat airheaded communications specialist, revealing aisle-rolling comedic talent I had not seen from her before and have not seen since. Tony Shalhoub brought his inimitable zen-charm and steady cool to the role of the ship’s engineer, while the great Alan Rickman practically stole the entire film with his portrayal of a frustrated Shakespearean actor forced to wear a ludicrous “alien” cranial prosthetic and repeat the corniest science-fiction show signature-line imaginable. Without revealing too much more and spoiling the vast scope of fun to be had by those who have never seen the film, I highly encourage all fans of fandom, and of the sci-fi/fantasy genre in particular to rent this classic without hesitation and get the microwave ready for a bag or two of popcorn. You won’t be offended by the parody of all things Star Trek or “Trekkie”. On the contrary, you’ll cheer along with the millions who have already taken Galaxy Quest to their hearts with pride … and with the ringing endorsement of “Grabthar’s Hammer.”
DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the sons of Warvan, you SHALL be avenged!” (Alan Rickman as “Dr. Lazarus”)
BEHOLD THE GREATNESS: Chompers? You bet.