"Galaxy Quest"

A special toilet for Alan Rickman? Deleted scenes make this "Star Trek" satire even better on second viewing.

By Michael Sragow

Published June 14, 2000 7:02PM (EDT)

"Galaxy Quest"
Directed by Dean Parisot
Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman
DreamWorks DVD; widescreen or not
Extras: Deleted scenes, making-of documentary, more

Dean Parisot -- yes, Dean Parisot -- is my candidate for underrated director of the '90s. In this satire of "Star Trek" and Trekkies, as in his nightmare family farce "Home Fries," he applies a deft hand to far-out material -- and proves that nothing can be more uproarious in comedy direction than casting a sane eye on lunatic shenanigans.

Parisot again whips up an outrageously itchy intimacy with a delicious and unlikely ensemble -- this one led by Tim Allen as a Shatnerian ham and the Kirk-like commander of the "Galaxy Quest" TV series and Sigourney Weaver as the buxom blond who, naturally, plays his computer expert. Along with Alan Rickman in a ribbed headpiece as the Shakespearean performer who plays this crew's Spock-like intellectual, Tony Shalhoub as the GQ tech sergeant, Daryl Mitchell as the navigator and Sam Rockwell as a bit player who wins a bigger part than he bargained for, they earn laughs where you least expect them.

A cascade of chuckles and outright guffaws derives not merely from (as one producer puts it on the DVD) the "fish out of water" plot, which lands these video actors in the middle of a real space war, but from the glories and frustrations of the TV thespians' trade. Unbeknown to them, an outer-space race called the Thermians has followed the "Galaxy Quest" saga from light-years away -- and taken it for history. When the Thermians transport them to their mother ship, the actors must draw on their real theatrical training, their mock military expertise and the devotion of their rabid fans to defeat the rapacious alien Sarris.

This is the kind of DVD that makes you feel like a newsboy in an old Hollywood movie: "Extras! Extras! Read all about them!" The making-of featurette is merely amiable, and a soundtrack that offers the movie dubbed in "the Thermian language" is a joke that's funny only for a minute at a time. But the DVD also contains a wealth of deleted scenes so smart and so ticklish that you wonder why they were ever cut from the film. One of the excised plums features Rickman confronting a toilet rigged for his supposedly complicated anatomy, and in another he uses the Method to talk Allen through his battle with a rock monster. We also get to see Shalhoub bluff his way around a technical discussion with adoring Thermian students and Weaver using brash seductive wiles to defeat a pair of slimy evil-alien guards. The movie worked wonderfully without them, but these scenes are prizes: dementedly funny toys in a DVD already filled with sweet and crunchy Cracker Jack.

Michael Sragow

Michael Sragow's column about moviemakers appears every Thursday in Salon. For more columns by Sragow, visit his archive.

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