Galaxy Quest is one of the most brilliant movies ever made. Those are strong words, but I stand by them. When I rate movies I base it on how well they accomplish what they set out to do and by how they compare to other movies of their type. It’s unfair, and inappropriate, to compare Fiddler on the Roof to Alien. In the case of Galaxy Quest it helps that it’s somewhat in a category all its own. The brilliance of Galaxy Quest is that it’s a multi-level movie, and it kicks butt on all those levels. Pulling that off is extremely difficult to do.
I was resistant to seeing Galaxy Quest at first. My sister mentioned it to me as a movie “you gotta see”. But my sister enjoys much more broad comedy than I generally do and from her description I thought the movie fell into that category. There’s a line past which I think of a certain type of comedy as being “stupid”. I’m not saying the people who enjoy that type of comedy are stupid, my sister certainly isn’t. It’s just that I tend to end up rolling my eyes rather than laughing. But she kept bugging me to see it so I finally caved and gave it a try. Imagine my surprise when I thought it was every bit as hilarious as she said it was.
Galaxy Quest isn’t only funny. Part of the brilliance of the movie is that it’s not just a parody, and it’s not just a comedy. On one level it’s a straight forward classic fantasy story about regular people who, when pushed, are able to achieve great things. There are dramatic elements woven into the comedy that are real and touching. To be able to pull that off in a plot that on its surface is completely ridiculous requires a very deft touch.
The relationship of Galaxy Quest to Star Trek is obvious and deliberate. That’s the parody. But even that parody works on a couple levels because it’s not just sending up the TV show of Star Trek. It’s also sending up the experiences of the Star Trek actors (and all actors who are forever linked with a popular show or role) along with the fans of the show and the whole convention culture. Yet the parody twists in on itself and (intentionally) ends up being a homage to both the TV show and the fans.
As was stated in one of the featurettes included on the DVD, Galaxy Quest is a huge in-joke. Anyone who has been a fan of science fiction, especially of Star Trek, is in on the joke as they watch the movie. Several of the funniest lines, and the entire character of Guy, have the in-joke as their source. Many of those lines also function on more than one level by being real to the characters, commenting on TV tropes, and sometimes even quasi breaking the fourth wall of the movie itself.
The other brilliant thing they did with the movie was the casting. Not just in who they chose to play the various roles, but in why they made those decisions. They were deliberate in choosing actors who were not necessarily known for comedy and also who were not associated with science fiction. In an interview on the DVD Sigourney Weaver said they didn’t want her at first because of her famed portrayal of Ripley in the Alien movies. Yet that ended up working fantastically because the dim blonde with large boobs whose only job it is on the fictional Galaxy Quest TV show is to repeat what the computer states is the antithesis of the resourceful, kick-ass Ripley. And I can’t think of a better choice to play the frustrated Shakespearian thespian stuck forever with his cheesy Sci-Fi character than Alan Rickman. All of the actors were right for their parts and were right on the money in their delivery and portrayals.
In one of the actor interviews on the DVD it was stated that Galaxy Quest is “infinitely watchable”. For me that’s certainly true. There are many movies that I dearly love that I only watch once every few years or so. They would lose much of their fascination and lustre if viewed too frequently. On the other hand, Galaxy Quest is the sort of movie you can pop into the DVD player as often as you like and it still retains everything that made it a great experience the first time you saw it.