Space comedies worth beaming into your living room
From 'The Orville' to 'Men in Black,' they deliver laughs bound to be heard by a galaxy far, far, away.
With film franchises like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" receiving new chapters and science fiction newcomers like "Arrival" and "The Space Between Us" drawing new audiences, Hollywood is clearly still over the moon with all things intergalactic.
It's through this star-studded light that we present to you a roundup of the best films (and one TV show) to poke fun at the space genre. These may lack the dramatic action scenes of their counterparts, but more than make up for it with laughs that are completely out of this world.
The film had actually been in development since 1985, with various writers – including Man Booker Prize-nominated British author Martin Amis – crafting scripts based off a 1960s trading card set. British playwright Jonathan Gems eventually came up with the final script a mind-boggling 12 drafts later.
Despite the rocky start, Burton managed to recruit an all-star cast that included American actors Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close and Michael J. Fox, Irish actor (and former James Bond) Pierce Brosnan, and then-rising star Israeli-American Natalie Portman.
Portman relished the role. "I'm not going to say my greatest cinematic moment was as Taffy in "Mars Attacks!" the "Jackie" star and Harvard graduate told Rolling Stone in 2002. "But I got to hang out with Tim Burton, and Jack Nicholson tried to teach me how to whistle."
Considered a near-perfect parody of the "Star Trek" franchise and its associated fandom, American director Dean Parisot's 1999 film "Galaxy Quest" tells the story of a group of science fiction actors recruited by a race of real aliens to defeat a vicious foe.
Despite its comedic platform, Parisot told MTV that his goal was to make something on par with "Star Trek."
“At the risk of sounding pretentious, there are a whole lot of themes playing in there," he said. "The movie needed to begin as a mockery and end as a celebration. That’s a hard thing to do. Part of the mission for me was to make a great 'Star Trek' episode."
According to a vote by "Star Trek" fans at an official convention in 2013 to rank the best films in the science fiction franchise, Parisot's goal appears to have been achieved. When asked to rank the 12 "Star Trek" films and "Galaxy Quest," the latter came in at a respectable No. 7.
This fall, American director Seth MacFarlane built on the legacy of "Galaxy Quest" in episodic form with the new comedy series "The Orville."
"I think it is going to surprise people that we do do our heavy lifting – or least we try to – with the actual work of writing thoughtful science fiction," the "Family Guy" creator told Access Hollywood. "It’s not really as much "Galaxy Quest" as it’s being billed as. We’re digging a little deeper."
Joining MacFarlane in boldly going where no space comedy has gone before is a cast of familiar stars like Scott Grimes, Adrianne Palicki and Peter Macon. Also slated to guest star is none other than Brian George, an Israeli character actor who has starred in everything from "Seinfeld" to "The Big Bang Theory".
"The Orville" premiered in September on Fox.
American filmmaking legend Mel Brooks' 1987 science fiction comedy "Spaceballs" is by all accounts the greatest spoof of the "Star Wars" galaxy ever created. In an interview with the AV Club, Brooks said the only way he could pull off the film's likeness to the sci-fi franchise was to partner with George Lucas on the film's production.
"I called Lucas and I said, 'I want you guys up in San Francisco – at the ranch or whatever – to do all the post-production of the movie,'" he recalled. "And he said, 'Oh, great, great.' So, there may have been 5 million bucks in post-production on that, and special effects, etc., that Lucas handled. So, it was wise, you know? I was playing ball with the people who could have said no."
While "Spaceballs" performed moderately well at the box office, it has since cemented its status as an immortal cult classic in the pantheons of science fiction comedy. "It worked," Brooks added. "I didn’t think it would. I had no idea it would work as well as it did. But, you know, it pays the rent."
'The Guardians of the Galaxy'
American director James Gunn's film "The Guardians of the Galaxy" took the Marvel Comics franchise in a new and much-needed hilarious direction when it premiered to unexpected rave reviews in 2014.
"I think of the Avengers as The Beatles and the Guardians are the Rolling Stones. That is really how I feel about the groups," Gunn said.
Starring American actors Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, "Guardians" remains one of the most humorous space comedies in recent memory, with an average critical score on Rotten Tomatoes of 91%.
"Blessed with a loose, anarchic B-picture soul that encourages you to enjoy yourself even when you're not quite sure what's going on, the scruffy 'Guardians' is irreverent in a way that can bring the first 'Star Wars' to mind, in part because it has some of the most unconventional heroes this side of the Mos Eisley Cantina," wrote LA Times critic Kenneth Turan.
'Men in Black'
Hot off his appearance in the sci-fi thriller "Independence Day," American actor Will Smith went right back to protecting the world from aliens in director Barry Sonnenfeld's 1997 film "Men in Black." Co-starring American actor Tommy Lee Jones, the film featured a particularly impressive physical performance from Hollywood veteran Vincent D'Onofrio.
"I think everybody was a bit nervous about what I was doing until they saw it in the dailies," D'Onofrio, who stars opposite Israeli star Ayelet Zurer in Netflix's "Daredevil" series, recalled. "But the great thing about Barry Sonnenfeld as a director is he gives his actors complete freedom and doesn’t get in the way of them. So although I think I made him a little nervous, I think in the end he was extremely happy with it. None of that was on the page – I had to be brave enough to bring it all in on my own."
Despite its release more than two decades ago, "Men in Black" remains the all-time, top-grossing buddy comedy.
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