Writers Robert Gordon and David Howard must be big “Three Amigos!” fans in addition to “Star Trek”, and this sense of plagiarism (or to be more charitable, familiarity) is the only thing preventing an otherwise fun flick from being truly memorable. It’s almost the exact same damn plot, just set in space, and with silent cinema replaced by TV space opera. Mind you, it was probably inevitable that we’d get a sci-fi version of “Three Amigos!” given that underrated comedy was a satire of “The Magnificent Seven”/“The Seven Samurai”, which in turn was made into a space saga by producer Roger Corman in the delightful “Battle Beyond the Stars”.
The satire is clever (if not gut-busting), the cast is fun (especially Rickman, Rockwell, and Mitchell), and the special FX still hold up pretty well in 2012 for this 1999 sci-fi comedy from director Dean Parisot (“Home Fries”, of all things). Usually visual FX from the 90s tend to have dated by now (look at most of those VR-inspired films like “Freejack”), but this, “The Matrix”, and a select few others still hold up pretty well. The names Stan Winston (“Aliens”, “Predator”, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”) and ILM (George Lucas’ FX company) attached to the film are little surprise to me. The film actually works pretty well as a space adventure, instead of just being a straight-up joke-after-joke send-up. It ain’t no “Three Amigos!” if you ask me (and not nearly as funny as the German sci-fi parody “Dreamship Surprise- Period 1”, either) but it’ll do nicely. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t spawn any sequels. Was it a box-office dud? I don’t remember it tanking spectacularly.
There’s lots of fun little touches, like Rickman’s Leonard Nimoy-esque character lamenting having to repeat the same damn catch phrase (he’s clearly no longer enjoying life), Rockwell as the guy who would be a ‘Red Shirt’ if this were truly “Star Trek” (Trekkies will love a gag at the end about him that will go over everyone else’s heads), Weaver realising that her character served an idiotic purpose on the show but by god she’s gonna do it anyway when called upon to do so in real-life, and a fun role for Justin Long (in his film debut) as a fan geek who actually gets to help out at one point. I’m not sure if he’s a Mac kid or a PC kid, though. I actually really liked Long’s character in this because in a way, he’s almost a rebuttal to Shatner’s ‘Get a Life!’ sketch on “SNL” all those years ago. Don’t piss off the fans, you just might need them one day (Well, maybe not in aiding against an alien threat, but still. Be nice to your fans, they’re the reason why you are who you are or were who you were). Personally I wish Allen played his character as more Shatner than Allen (why not cast Kevin Pollak? Or any of the millions of other comedians who could mimic The Shat Man?), but he’s still OK.
It’s an amusing and entertaining film (especially for Trekkies), but nothing brilliant, and certainly nothing original. Having a race of benevolent aliens who all speak like Milton from “Office Space” probably wasn’t a good idea, either.