Friday, 20 August 2010

Never give up, never surrender

Spoofs, they’re hard to do right. The Naked Gun did it well. Hot Shots did it even stupider, but still well. And of course, Airplane set the template.

But for every one of those you have an Epic Movie, or a Date Movie. Modern ‘spoofs’ that completely fail to hit the mark.

The last good spoof I feel that was wholly successful was Galaxy Quest. If you haven’t seen it, go and watch it now.

Ok, have you watched it yet? Good.

I first watched it ages ago back on VHS. I remember sitting down and watching it with everyone in my house. And we all loved it. It was on TV last night and even though I was knackered and it wasn’t over til about half 12, I watched the whole damn thing again anyway. It’s the story of a washed up bunch of actors from a cancelled sci-fi show, being mistaken by real aliens as real astronauts, and being brought into the middle of a battle between the Thermians and some evil dude called Sarris on an exact recreation of their ship from the TV show, which the Thermians believe to be ‘histoical documents.’ Mistaken identity is always good comic fodder, taking it into space multiplies it ten fold.

At its core, Galaxy Quest is a loving pastiche of both Star Trek, as well as the actors and fans of Star Trek. But it never looks down its nose at its clear inspiration. Tim Allen’s character is basically William Shatner taken to a comic extreme (I hope), and is the most obvious connection to Trek.

But the movie really is a fine ensemble of some fine comic actors. Or at least actors with a knack for comedy. It’s easily Tim Allen’s best live action role. Tony Shaloub gets a lot of laughs out of his character who doesn’t seem fazed by anything going on around him – “That was a hell of a thing.” Justin Long plays the nerdy kid with just the right level of nerd-dom and excitement. Sigourney Weaver purpose in the show within the movie was the eye candy and that’s more or less her role in the actual movie. But what eye candy she is. Surprising eye candy too. Daryl Mitchell playing the now adult child star of the series gets a lot of mileage from his out of his depth pilot. Alan Rickman, as the Shakespearean actor who feels this sci-fi guff is below him, steals every scene he in, as long as he’s not in it with Sam Rockwell, who just about walks off with the entire movie as Guy, Crewman No 6. Or the redshirt character, who’s convinced he’s going to be killed off to show the situation is serious. Every line he has is pure gold. I’ll single out the scene in which he’s first transported to the alien ship and just screams as a comic highlight. As well as the final shot of the movie, “…and introducing Guy Fleegman” always leaving me crying with laughter. If there’s a youtube clip of his best moments from the movie I’ll throw it up here.

Also, a special mention must go to Veronica Mars' dad himself, Enrico Colantoni for his endearing portrayal of Mathesar, the leader of the Thermians. Having to do that voice throughout the entire movie deserves some kind of award. Apparently it was his own idea as well.

The great thing about the movie is that it’s not just a set up for some great laughs. There is an actual plot to the movie, unlike the recent modern ‘spoofs’ which are just a collection of pop culture references thrown in for the forgetful and the stupid. And as well as having a decent plot it also embraces some elements of sci-fi itself. We’re not talking complicated stuff here, but it at least recognises that to be a sci-fi spoof you need more than some aliens thrown in. There are elements that they take seriousy(ish) with the Omega 13 device, and some not so serious (such as why would a spaceship have a bunch of stompy crushy things in the middle of it, other than the fact that it created peril in a TV episode of the show and as such the Thermians recreated it).

As well as the comedy and the science fiction, it’s got some damn good action in there too. The flight through the mine field in space being both a hilarious and exciting scene. As well as the reversal of it near the end being just about as exciting as any serious space set movie – “What you fail to realise is that my ship is dragging mines.”

So, to finish here’s a few of the best lines from said movie.

- “You broke the ship. You broke the bloody ship.”

- “Don’t open that. It's an alien planet. Is there air? You don’t know.”

- “By Grabthar's hammer, by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged.”

Jason Nesmith: You're not gonna die on the planet, Guy.
Guy Fleegman: I'm not? Then what's my last name?
Jason Nesmith: It's, uh, uh - -I don't know.
Guy Fleegman: Nobody knows. Do you know why? Because my character isn't important enough for a last name, because I'm gonna die five minutes in.

Brandon's Mom: Where are you going with those fireworks?
Brandon: Well, the Protector got super-accelerated coming out of the black hole, and it, like, nailed the atmosphere at Mach 15, which, you guys know, is pretty unstable, obviously, so we're gonna help Laredo guide it on the vox ultra-frequency carrier and use Roman candles for visual confirmation.
Brandon's Mom: Uh, all right, dinner's at seven.

[Reading a tactical display]
Guy Fleegman: Hey guys, there's a red-thingy moving toward the green-thingy.
Jason Nesmith: What?
Guy Fleegman: Red-thingy moving toward the green-thingy. I think we're the green-thingy.

Gwen DeMarco: Alex, where are you going?
Sir Alexander Dane: To see if there's a pub.

Go and watch it again.

You know you want to.

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