Release Date: September 19, 2014 (Limited)
Director: Jack Plotnick
MPAA Rating: R
[This is a repost of our review from SXSW 2014. Space Station 76 opens in limited release Friday.]
Jack Plotnick’s Space Station 76 is a science fiction comedy that takes place in the future as it was imagined back in the ‘70s. This goofy idea lends itself to a bevy of funny gags that poke fun at the time period and how the future was represented. While it mostly acts as a straight comedy, there is a serious undercurrent flowing beneath the mustaches and feathered hairdos. This slightly dark edge makes the film much more rewarding than a straight-up spoof. Basically, Space Station 76 is like the ‘70s sci-fi version of Wet Hot American Summer, which means it’s hilarious, smart and super fun.
The film features an ensemble cast playing the crew of a 27-person station adrift in the loneliness of space. When a new crew member comes aboard (Liv Tyler), she begins making waves causing dissension and drama among the ranks.
Looking like a movie straight out of the ‘70s, the first thing one notices about Space Station 76 is the amazing set designs and costumes. The computers and instrument panels looked of the era, and the little helper robots were fantastic. The design of everything felt cheap and simplistic – exactly how it should be. That being said, the various rooms and areas of the ship looked great and provided a wonderful backdrop for these people to be terrible to one another.
Each character has a personal crisis that he or she is dealing with, and we jump around from person to person learning a bit more about who they are and how they fit into this world. Most everyone is clearly experiencing some form of space madness, considering they all seem to resent and hate each other. There’s cheating, backstabbing, lying (everything you could want from a classic sci-fi drama) but only much more ridiculous and over the top.
Patrick Wilson plays the hilarious Captain Glenn. It’s clear from the beginning of the film that he’s a complete emotional wreck for some reason and seems hardly fit to lead. Of course, this volatility makes for some very funny moments, and Wilson provides the most laughs throughout the film.
It should be noted however that this is not a goof-spoof film like Airplane. While a lot of the humor is irreverent and silly, it’s much darker and more dialogue driven. The script is sharp, seamlessly interweaving various themes and subplots into a cohesive narrative. It’s much more dry than one might imagine, so don’t go into it expecting Hot Shots in space.
I’ve never seen the stage play that this film is based on, however I can attest that the movie version is a complete joy, with some very funny performances and a great soundtrack. The characters’ conversations with the “therapist bot” alone make this one worth checking out.