Friday, January 22, 2010

Underrated, Part 5: Galaxy Quest

The argument goes, "If God exists, why is there evil in the world?"  To which the theologian answers, "Because there is a plan, even if it cannot be seen." 

But, from time to time, we are offered the briefest of glimpses of such a plan. 

Consider the film, Galaxy Quest, which failed abysmally at the box-office and remains unseen by a startlingly large number of geeks.  There is little question as to what caused this tragedy: the marketing campaign is rivaled only by that of The Iron Giant for worst in the history of the universe.

But we've little interest in belaboring that point: it is not the film's monetary situation that elicits theology.  Rather, it is its star: Tim Allen.

There are few activities as depressing as looking through a list of his roles.  Besides being cast in the Toy Story franchise, there is little in his career to celebrate.  He is best known, of course, for his work on Home Improvement, a show we maintain the universe would have been better off without.  Every time we need to sit through a trailer for a movie like Wild Hogs or Christmas with the Kranks, we cringe and find ourselves asking, "Why?"  Why would any God - let alone a good one - force such a string of movies on His children?

But, while rewatching Galaxy Quest the other day, we stumbled on an answer.  Tim Allen's career was necessary to create Tim Allen.  We refer not to his skill as an actor: that is entirely peripheral.  Instead, we refer to his persona and image.

All of his movies and the seasons of Home Improvement were necessary to construct the man who could do the impossible: who could BECOME William Shatner.  Now, it is important to differentiate Allen's role in Galaxy Quest from Chris Pine's in Star Trek.  Pine was not Shatner, nor was he supposed to be: he was merely tasked with becoming Captain Kirk.

But Tim Allen had to be Shatner himself.  It is our contention that his career facilitated this, allowing him to fill the shoes of the legend.

Galaxy Quest did not succeed merely because of Tim Allen's career, but we believe it was necessary to make the character truly resonate.  He had to be a perfect stand in for Shatner.  It wasn't enough to play a washed-up actor: he had to BE a washed up actor.

It's as though his whole life was leading up to this one role.  And, we ask you, what mortal power could ever plan such a thing?

When we first saw Galaxy Quest, we wondered if perhaps they could have made a similar movie using the actual cast of Star Trek.  But, by design, such a thing would have had to be true self-parody.  Like Shaun of the Dead, Enchanted, Elf, and Sky High, Galaxy Quest works because it is not, strictly speaking, a parody.  All of these are as funny as any parody, but at heart they exist to celebrate rather than mock.

This isn't a movie that seeks to mock and belittle Shatner or his crew.  Instead, it tells us why they are truly awesome.  And, if you needed further proof of divine intervention, it demonstrates that, given the right role, Tim Allen is kind of awesome, as well.

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