GalaxyQuest DVD Gets a "Buy" Recommendation

Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman. Directed by Dean Parisot. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 102 minutes. 2000. DreamWorks 86017. PG. $19.99.

There is a distinct genre of movies about actors being placed in situations in which they actually have to be the heroes they've pretended to be. (One of my favorites of this genre is the underrated Three Amigos.) GalaxyQuest is in this category, the actors being former stars of a Star Trek–like TV series who are now reduced to opening electronics supermarkets and signing autographs for money at science-fiction conventions. The adventure begins when they're approached at one of these conventions by people they assume to be some slightly strange-looking fans, who ask them to make what appears to be yet another personal appearance.

However, these are not ordinary fans; they're real aliens who picked up the transmission of the TV show GalaxyQuest on their own planet, and were so inspired by what they thought was a "historical document" that they built their spaceship to be just like the one they saw on the show. Now their very existence is being threatened by some villainous crab-like creatures, and they hope that Captain Kirk—er, Commander Taggart—and his heroic crew will save them.

The premise is clever, but I've seen lots of movies that started with a clever premise that the filmmakers were not able to sustain for an entire movie. GalaxyQuest not only sustains interest, capitalizing on the comic potential of the situations, but also ends up succeeding as a straightforward space adventure in the Star Trek mold. As such, I think it's better than most of the Star Trek movies, and it has characters that I actually cared about (unlike those in The Phantom Menace). A lot of money was spent on special visual effects (the ubiquitous Industrial Light & Magic) and elaborate costumes for all the various aliens, giving the movie an authentic look.

The cast is led by Tim Allen, giving a relaxed, confident performance that somehow suggests William Shatner while avoiding Shatner's mannerisms. Sigourney Weaver departs from her strong-smart-woman screen persona to play a blond bimbo (but strong and smart, in her way). Her costume alone, with the zipper down the front that keeps opening in every action scene, is worth the price of admission. Alan Rickman does a suitably droll turn as a Shakespearean actor who hates being identified with the half-alien character he plays on the show, and the supporting cast of comic actors is strong.

A soundtrack with dialogue in a choice of languages is a feature on a lot of DVDs, but this is the only DVD that has optional dialogue in Thermian, the language of the aliens. (The actors doing the dubbing must have become really tired of speaking that gibberish.) The DVD includes deleted scenes that were wisely left on the cutting-room floor, and a featurette on the making of the movie. Video quality is up to the best that current technology can offer—crisp and clear—and David Newman's suitably space-y score sounds great in Dolby Digital 5.1. (The film is also available on DVD in DTS 5.1.) I'd place this one in the category of "Don't just rent; buy."