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Galaxy Quest

Dreamworks // PG // November 17, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted November 17, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

"There is no "quantum flux". There's no "auxiliary". There's no goddamned ship! You got it?" -- Galaxy Quest

We've approached a cinematic world where the genre of satire has turned into a bit of a blabbering joke at mainstream level, one where the brain-dead antics of the Scary/Disaster/Epic Movie flicks have made a killing by letting the relative finesse of Mel Brooks' body of work, Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, and even the send-up successes bubbling from the Coen Brothers fall on their deaf ears. In the middle of all that hoopla, director Dean Parisot built his own comedic lampoon with Galaxy Quest that's, quite simply, a sci-fi infused blast of comedy. Now, I'm not suggesting that it's of quite the same caliber as, say, O Brother Where Art Thou! or Blazing Saddles, yet it outrageously mixes humor with smartly-written material that'll appeal to both devotees and deterrents of the space opera it pokes fun at.

It's clear within the opening shots of the film exactly what science-fiction legacy Galaxy Quest aims to zap as its topic. Filled with age-labeling hair, goofy dialogue, Irwin Allen "rock-and-rolls" and an overall sense of silliness, it's clear that the voyages of the NTE Protector aren't unlike that of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe. And, similarly, the "Galaxy Quest" actors bear the burden of typecasting, making a British actor (Alan Rickman) who played the Worf/Spock-inspired character Dr. Lazarus struggling to land dramatic "Shakespearean" roles, and sex-pot Gwen Demarco (Sigourney Weaver) having to discuss how her chest fits into the jumpsuit. The only one of the original cast still with bravado is Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), the charismatic "lead" of their cast who played Captain Kirk Commander Taggart. He still relishes in the spotlight during their humdrum appearances at Galaxy Quest conventions, while the rest mildly curse his name as he stumbles in late and books solo gigs.

David Howard and Bob Gordon's writing builds up quite a few laughs even in Galaxy Quest's setup, endlessly and unashamedly poking fun at the presupposed diva-like mutterings between the cast. However, it only gets better when a group of Thermian aliens -- with the likes of Erico Colantoni, Missi Pyle, and Rainn Wilson in early, highly entertaining roles -- pull the cast, starting with Nesmith in a situational comedy joyfest, from earth and bring them up to a gear-for-gear construction of their ship, all designed from the broadcast Galaxy Quest "historical documents" they believe to be real. The Theramins plea with the actors to save them from the clutches of Sarris, a complete kitchen-sink combination of enemy influence, which plops them right in the seats of the grand theater of space war.

Watching the actors use their "skills" learned from the show in a fight-or-flight environment transforms Galaxy Quest into a very funny slapstick comedy on top of its situational satire, essentially making it wall-to-starship-wall laughs from its first booster thrust to the end of its 100-minute warp. Though Tim Allen and Alan Rickman give their characters just the right mix at poke-and-prod fandom, and Sigourney Weaver gathers spins together a collision of her Dana Barret character from Ghostbusters with hints of Uhura, the rest of the cast gets their share of one-liners and humor. Tony Shalhoub goes completely against his now-famous turns in "Monk" and "Wings" with his laid back, gruff maneuvering as the transport room technician, while Daryl Mitchell has quite possibly the most side-splitting segment in the film as the now-grown child actor who once played the part of the ship's pilot. Then, it wouldn't be a Star Trek spoof without a smattering of prods at the "doomed to be killed" redshirt, quirkily animated by Sam Rockwell -- aka "Crewman Number 6", or Guy.

While it's busy with its spoof-riddled lunacy, Galaxy Quest also manages to be an exciting sci-fi adventure to boot. Sure, sending the crew in a small space pod hopelessly down to a dusty planet opens up the opportunity to dig further into the humor, but watching the crew scramble around on their mission -- and seeing the "captain" bite off much more than he can chew in a fight against one of the locals -- enlivens the pacing and ramps up the action. A lot of the excitement comes from a rather large budget for a spoof of its kind, roughly $45 million; it can be seen in the inspired set design and CG-imaging of the ship's maneuvering, which second-handedly mimics the spruced-up tech on both the Star Wars anniversary retooling and the Next Generation flicks around the time (First Contact, Insurrection). It even tosses in romance and a few hints of affective heartbreak during the film's rambunctious conclusion.

Amid obvious and persistent referencing on the subject it playfully mocks, do you have to be a sworn-in follower of geekdom to appreciate Galaxy Quest? Not in the slightest. The humor's handled in a way that cleverly blends both surface-level goofiness and allusion to the Star Trek universe, even tying in the likes of actual pseudo-Trekkie/Trekker interaction (watch for Zack and Miri star and Apple guy Justin Long) and long-theorized time travel elements to a degree that harks to the culture without alienating a single viewer. It's a little silly and overly blunt in a few spots, sure, but the environment dictates as such in a way that's simply a hell of a lot of fun. It's a shame more modern satires aren't grabbing a hold of the narrative-driven satire like Dean Parisot's love-letter spoof, because they'd likely garnish much more praise if they followed a similar framework to this comedic, action-infused rhythm that opts to please everyone instead of pushing the envelope.

The Blu-ray:

Video and Audio:

Paramount presents Galaxy Quest in a 2.35:1 AVC encode that's detailed and highly pleasing. Elements in the crew's costumes, against the set design, and across metallic elements are presented in attractively well-sketched fashion, while facial close-ups and the desert location shots aptly preserve natural textures. The computer-generated elements pour through the image to degrees that retained motion and line integrity well, even if they're showing a bit of their age. Contrast levels also look exceptional, holding onto minor gradient shifts in shady sequences and preserving depth to proper degrees.

Appearing largely similar in palette to the previous standard-definition editions, it does suffer from a few color solidity issues against many of its backdrops. It occurs throughout, though the nighttime sequence with Nesmith in his mansion shows a good amount of the issues. Also, grain pushes over towards digital blocking and compression issues instead of natural film grain, while a noticeably amount of dots and blips with print damage can be seem. These elements keep the image looking a little more digital than expected, yet it's still a very attractive upgrade over the standard-definition counterparts that only strays from excellence by a few paces.

Audio comes in the form of a Dolby TrueHD track that offers a very rich step above the sharp DTS 5.1 track previously available. It maintains robustness about its movement, holding onto the ambiance of the spaceship and the convention halls to phenomenal degrees. There's also a fine level of lower-frequency punch, especially with the Protector soaring through the sky. Several of the effects blast the speakers with activity, reaching to the rear-channels to strategic -- and a few exuberant -- degrees. Verbal clarity sounds decent but not without a few issues, namely dialogue in a few sequences carried over from the previous presentation. Most verbal delivery remains crisp and clear, yet a few patches -- most notable during Tim Allen's battle with the rock monster -- really scrape the upper wall of the soundstage and distort a bit. Still, its expansion of sound elements, well-tuned effects, and overall facelift from the DTS track is an impressive boost. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, while a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track is also available.

Special Features:

The Galactopedia is, get this, an encyclopedia of material about the actors, filmmakers, and overall fandom revolving around the film. It appears as a blue digital interface that makes options available in text form while the film plays, utilizing the BD-Java tech to s streamlined but very effective degree. When an element pops up in the film about a specific episode or planet and such from the TV show "Galaxy Quest", each one -- all optional -- pops up with a photograph at the lower portion of the screen. It covers: Actors, Behind-the-scenes, Characters, Episodes, Fandom, Planets and Aliens, Pop Culture, and Science and Technology.

Historical Documents: The Making of Galaxy Quest (18:13, 16x9/4x3 MPEG-2):
Filmmakers Bob Gordon and Dean Parisot, most of the actors, and some of the Star Trek creators (Nicholas Meyer, among others) all get together for interviews to talk about Galaxy Quest. They discuss the nature of its satire, writing the film, the universal appeal, and the definitions of Trekkies and Trekkers. Behind-the-scenes and raw footage from the film crops up interwoven within, along with some light elaboration on the loving pokes and prods that it delivers to Star Trek. They even discuss the one curse word that was dubbed over for a PG-rating, as well as "things inside of things inside of things". It's a nice surface-level featurette with some great interviews.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender (23:27, 16x9/4x3 MPEG-2):
Watching the filmmakers discuss casting the full crew of the Protector is very enjoyable, diving deep into the casting and character motivations. Allen discusses harking to Ten Commandments and Bill Shatner for his positioning in the chair, as well as discussing his empathy during the dramatic sequences and his reputation on blogs about his "crappy" work. Then, Alan Rickman comes into focus with both old 1999 and new interview footage, discussing his Shakespeare background and delivering the "By Grabthar's Hammer" line. Sugourney Weaver falls into focus as the anti-Ripley, references of David Carradine in Tony Shaloub's character, as well as anecdotes about the rest of the cast.

By Grabthar's Hammer, What Incredible Effects (7:02, 16x9/4x3 MPEG-2):
This seven-minute featurette covers how they remove the "cheese" factor from Galaxy Quest and breathed real sci-fi life into the CGI and costume work. It discusses the razor-teethed babies, the rock monster, Sarris' costume work within interviews including Stan Winston, and the overall ship computer-generation sequences. It's all exquisite, and they dive into the construction to decent depth.

Alien School: Creating the Theramin Race (5:22, 16x9/4x3 MPEG-2):
Erico Colantoni, Missi Pyle, and the filmmakers talk about the Theramins, how it originated from Colatoni and went from there. Sam Rockwell also talks about the Alien Sex scene late in the film. Finally, they give due diligence to Erico Colantoni's conceptualization of the race.

Actors in Space (6:09, 16x9/4x3 MPEG-2):
Here, the actors discuss how they felt while lampooning themselves as actors. Justin Long discusses the archetypes of all the characters, and how real they can be in comparison to some of the actors in Hollywood. Of course, no names are named, but it's fun to hear them discuss their nature. Tim Allen discusses "Home Improvement", Long discusses being "The Mac Guy", and others discuss typecasting.

Also included are Sigourney Weaver Raps (1:59, 16x9/4x3 MPEG-2) where Weaver, Rockwell, and crew get together for a birthday rap, a large set of Deleted Scenes (Letterbox 4x3 MPEG-2), a Theatrical Trailer (1:55, AVC 16x9 framed at 2.35:1), and the wacky Thermin Audio Track (Dolby 2.0 Stereo).

Final Thoughts:

Whether watching it as a spoof or simply kicking back for laughs, action, and some seriously quirky sci-fi, Galaxy Quest can pretty much satisfy on any level. It delivers its humor, through an outstanding ensemble cast, in a way that mindfully -- and lovingly -- sends up the Star Trek franchise. It's a blend of comedy rife with slapstick and situation humor, all sprinkled atop an enthralling space adventure with polished effects that still hold up. Paramount's Blu-ray looks and sounds extremely good, while delivering a rather sizable chunk of special features only lacking a few elements -- a commentary and some concept art, if anything. It's a robust upgrade over the previous standard-definition offerings, and an overall Highly Recommended package.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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Highly Recommended

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