Friday, May 9, 2014

Serious Look at Comedy, Part XIa

Part XIa
An Hysterical Analysis: Galaxy Quest, Part 1

A couple of months ago, while watching Galaxy Quest on a road trip, I took notes on some of the things I found funny or remotely humorous. Of course, writing out something like this is going to kill the comedy but I hope that this analysis will help you understand some of the comedy techniques we've been discussing. Also, remember, we all find different things funny, so what I bring out may not be funny to you and I may miss a few things that you thought were hilarious. I'll use the movie character names here because of the confusing aspect of actors playing actors playing characters. *Spoiler Warning* Everything that follows:

In the first minute, we see an over-acted “lost episode” during a fan convention. This establishes the movie as a spoof of our dearly beloved Star Trek and its conventions.

At two minutes, we see the actual 'intrepid crew', but we get the rule of opposites here: they are neither intrepid nor very happy to be around each other.

When we hit 3:40, the captain, Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), arrives. He is happy and soaking up all the attention he gets from these conventions while the rest of his crew is not (opposites).

5:15: Alexander (Alan Rickman) wears a rubber head in order to reprise his role as an alien character from the old TV series. He refuses to say his famous line, “By Grabthar's Hammer,” establishing that he is tired of his role and wants out. The video behind him says it anyway and we see his chagrin.

6:05: When Jason finally comes out, he revels in the attention he is getting from the crowd as he says his famous lines. When he tries to continue, the mic gets cut off, creating an awkward and embarrassing situation for him.

7:22: A group of kids who are big fans of the show arrive to ask Jason about a 'conundrum'. Here is some truth in humor as this isn't so much as mocking fandom but portraying it and letting us see some of the humor. Of course, they get cut off as Jason decides to go flirt with Gwen (Sigourney Weaver).

8:04: Aliens, called Thermians, from the Klaatu Nebula arrive (this name probably is a reference to the 1951 sci-fi movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still and the line 'klaatu berada nicto', creating a nice little inside joke for sci-fi fans). They look silly and awkward. There is a misunderstanding between them and Jason; Jason thinks they are booking him for a 'gig' while the Thermians think he's a real starship captain who can help them with an evil bad guy. We get so see another silly aspect of them as they imitate Jason saying 'mum'.

9:25: We then get a serious moment when Jason overhears people making fun of him. He comes back to the signing table and snaps at the kids with the conundrum. He then goes home and gets drunk. This isn't funny, but it sets up character motivation and some humor down the road.

12:00: We see Jason hungover and not wearing pants (this is always funny, right?). Meanwhile, the Thermians show up, looking as goofy as ever. Here we see opposites again with Jason a hungover wreck while the aliens continue their humorous smiles. The aliens also talk in a silly way.

13:08: Mathesar (Enrico Calatoni), the Thermian leader, says, “You are our last hope.” At this moment, Jason isn't giving us much hope of anything.

13:39: Here we get one of my favorite parts of the movie. While Jason is looking for his shoe with his underwear-covered butt pointed toward them, Mathesar says, “This is our greatest honor we could hope to achieve in our lifetime.” This combines embarrassment with a statement of truth.

13:48: Those of us who have ever sent kids out to find something get a kick out of this when Jason asks for help finding his shoe and the aliens just stand in one spot and humorously look around, smiling.

14:23: In this scene, the Thermians are riding with Jason in a limo. As one of the aliens goes into some exposition about their problem, we are distracted from it's boredom by the Jason's actions. We get a further distraction when when he tries to flirt with the cute alien girl, Laliari (Missi Pyle), who then speaks in a shrill (thus, funny) voice because her translator is broken.

15:30: Jason wakes up, drooling (awkward, ridicule). He burps (crude). At this point, Jason still believes this is an acting gig. It is a conflict of misperceptions.

16:55: Jason makes a joke but it flops (awkward), mainly because of the different interpretations of the situation.

17:14: Jason sips from his soda as he addresses the big lizard-like baddie, Sarris. The Thermians are all frightened while Jason thinks the special effects are good and he is still just doing an acting job. Jason acts bored by Sarris's speech so he orders a full assault. We see an alien running around the ship in a silly fashion (reminiscent of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks sketch). We finally learn the aliens were hoping Jason would negotiate with Sarris, not fire on him (awkward). Still, it looks like Jason defeated Sarris so the aliens are grateful for him saving them. Jason is again put in an uncomfortable situation when Mathesar tries to hug him.

19:07: We see Jason go into a panic when ooze covers his body (think: pie in face) in order to shoot him back to earth. He realizes that the whole situation he was just in was real (including revelatory music) just before he is launched through space, screaming (more opportunity to laugh at his discomfort). When he lands, he is standing next to his pool, shaking.

20:12: The rest of the crew is at a store opening and reciting lines like they'd rather be somewhere else. Jason shows up, bumping into the kids. He accidentally swaps the real communicator the aliens gave him with a fake one belonging to one of the kids. When Jason reaches the rest of the crew, he tells them what happened to him but they don't believe him. He tries to prove he's telling the truth by activating his fake communicator. The others mock him by showing him theirs.

At 21:51, the Thermians returns with bad news: Sarris was not defeated. Jason uses a malaprop when he introduces the Thermians as 'termites'.

22:51: There's more misunderstanding when the rest of the crew starts to suspect Jason is talking about a job. There's that moment of silence while they all ponder the possibility before they all dash out of the van at once (comedic rhythm). Guy (Sam Rockwell), who has just been tagging along as an outsider, joins in, not realizing what he's getting himself into.

24:18: They are transported to the Thermian base. The Thermians walk into the room without their disguises, thus freaking out the crew. They restore them just before Jason shows up. Guy screams, in opposition to Jason's excitement. When Fred the engineer (Tony Shalhoub) arrives, Jason and Fred poke fun at the rest of the crew. “What's wrong with them?” Fred asks. Jason answers, “I don't know.” As they walk further into the ship, Tommy the pilot (Daryl Mitchell) falls down, providing us with a little slapstick.

At 25:57, we see the aliens worshiping the crew. The crew learns that the aliens believe the television transmissions of their show are historical documents and thus, all true. The aliens have no concept of acting, pretending, or drama. This sets up the humorous situation the crew finds themselves in: they are frauds. We get further humor when the aliens don't recognize Guy, but when he tells them he was in the show, they revere him as much as the other crew members. Gwen summarizes the situation by saying, “We're actors, not astronauts.”

29:33, Jason is eating up all the attention. Alexander says, “It's like throwing gasoline on a flame.” At the same time, Guy is all smiles, just loving being a part of the crew which puts him as an exact opposite of Alexander's glumness.

30:26: Thermian crew called in by Malthesar's screech and they enter with their characteristic silly walk.

30:50: Jason says to Tommy, “Loredo, take us out.” Tommy, “Excuse me?” Tommy may have been the child pilot on the show but he has no idea how to actually fly the ship the Thermians constructed for them. As they launch, things seem to be going okay until the ship starts drifting to the side. We get some visual humor as they try to use body movements to steer the ship away from the side of the dock. The ship hits and we get the obnoxious scraping sound for several seconds until the ship clears. Once clear, we see Tommy's embarrassment as the Thermians all clap.

33:15: The crew is served food the Thermians think they'll like based on their observations of the 'historical documents'. Since Alexander plays an alien in the show, they assume he likes the tics they serve him. Alexander says, grimacing, “Just like mother used to make.” This allows us to laugh at his discomfort as the tick does a dive back into the bowl. Also at this time, Mathesar goes into more boring exposition. Everyone is now paying close attention except for Guy, who is first dangling a long string of alien spaghetti into his mouth and a moment later, gags on it.

35:30: After seeing the previous captain being tortured, the crew tries to make a run for it. This is no longer just an acting gig, but a life and death situation. We get Guy's speech, “I'm not even supposed to be here. I'm just crewman #6. I'm the guy who dies.” This is an obvious poke at the high death rate of people who wore red shirts in the original Star Trek.

36:29: Jason talks to Sarris again to explain the previous 'misunderstanding'. Tries to have Gwen mute the broadcast. Jason then calls Sarris stupid and ugly (insult humor). Unfortunately, Gwen didn't mute it and Sarris hears every word (awkward). We then get Guy speaking some highly-complex terminology by saying, “Red thingy moving toward the green thingy. I think we're the green thingy.”

Anyway, this is getting a little long and one of my goals with this series is to give you short, quick articles to read. I'll take up the rest of the movie next week. Until then: never give up, never surrender!

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