MOVIE REVIEW: “Space Station 76” (2014)

It’s a good thing I like set design, or I wouldn’t have been able to stay awake. Ok, that’s not entirely fair. I’m being glib. The movie wasn’t that dull, but it’s the kind of film that, were I to give a synopsis, would feel like less happens than actually does.

The basic concept grabbed me: It’s an obvious parody of those early ’70s mid-budget SF films like Silent Running and whatnot, as well as TV series from the same period. Well, “Parody” is what the trailer led me to believe. In actual fact, it’s more like an homage. Parody is supposed to be funny. This film, while it is a comedy, is on a simmer so low that the differences between it and ‘drama’ are largely notional. There are a few noteworthy funny scenes, such as where Misty confesses her love for her Robot Psychiatrist. He protests. She turns him off, then cuddles him and continues to talk to him. It makes absolutely no difference in their sessions.

The plot is where it lost me, though. It’s basically one of those suburban malaise flicks, also from the early ’70s, where everyone is disaffected and screwing each other’s wives and neglecting their kids. This, for no reason whatsoever, is set in space. Again, it’s more homage than parody, and apart from gay Captain Glenn’s repeated suicide attempts, it’s mostly laugh-free.

But ok: two unrelated genres from the same general time period mashed up. I’m cool with that. It’s got potential. It sort of doesn’t work, but points for trying.

I’ll try to make this as non-dull as possible: The Space Station is essentially a truck stop. People pull in to refuel and get a shower. Liv Tyler arrives as the new executive officer. The position was vacated when gay Captain Glenn and the previous exec had a bad breakup. Glenn is closeted, and evidently somewhat in denial as well. Oh, and he’s a drunk. And suicidal, probably from a combination of both the breakup and the denial. Liv quickly befriends Sunshine (Age 7) the only child on the station, and immediately runs afoul of her shitty mom, Misty. Misty is completely self-absorbed and manipulative. Her husband, Neil from White Collar, is a blue collar schlub who works in maintenance all day, and is the only one who ever seems to have something to do. Oh, and he’s got a robot hand wich I swear is a Nintendo NES glove. Live and Neil develop a chaste crush on each other, while Misty and Steve (The neighbor) have sex a lot. She won’t let Neil touch her, though. Steve’s wife, Donna, is Misty’s best friend, and you see where all this is going, right?

It culminates at the Christmas party, where an asteroid narrowly misses the station, but destroys a shuttle packed full of Steve and Donna’s stuff. (They were going to move in the morning) Nothing is really resolved, though it’s implied that Liv and Neil are going to get together.

Damn. It really DID seem like even less than happens onscreen, and let me tell ya, brother: nothing much happens onscreen.

Liv is her pretty, reseved self. Matt Bomer is, as always, effortlessly charming, and he played a blue collar joe better than I would have expected (I’m used to him playing spies and art thieves and what have you). Marissa Coughlin plays Misty as, basically, Katherine Heigl. I say this because I thought she was Katherine Heigl until the closing credits, and that’s sort of the go-to choice on unlikeability these days, isn’t it? Kier Dullea literally phones in his cameo. But wait, he’s credited, so it’s not really a cameo, is it? Just there to pad out the names on the marquis.

Patrick Wilson is pretty great as gay Captain Glenn, and he seems to be the only one who got the memo about this being a comedy. He jumps between pointless anger, questionable competence, worldweary depression, and extreme frustration when his suicide attempts fail.

I’ll recount them because they’re the best part of the movie, and who am I kidding? No one’s actually reading my review, much less gonna watch this flick.

1) He attempts to electrocute himself in a bathtub. The station computer immediately spots the power surge and reroutes the energy elsewhere so he doesn’t even get a twitch.

2) He attempts to asphyxiate himself, but the station computer immediately spots the problem and vents all the bad air out of the room.

3) Wow. I’ve already forgotten the third one. It was pretty funny, though. Well, I guess not that funny if I’ve blanked on it in less than an hour, but you get my point.

The best part of this movie, as I said above, is the set design. Space Station 76 is Moonbase Alpha. Same backlit walls, same color scheme, same colored light scheme, same window designs, personal quarters are the same, with the same mod furniture and bric-a-brac. The few space ships we see in the film are essentially hommages of ships from other shows. The shuttle that gets destroyed at the end is essentially the Alien’s modular shuttle from “V.” The ship that Liv arrives on is essentiall the Starfire from “Jason of Star Command.” There’s some geodesic dome garden scenes that are obviously an homage to the Valley Forge.

There’s some nudity and two scenes of fake masturbation, and flagrant use of Tod Rungren on the soundtrack. Any or all of those may offend some viewers. Also it annoyed the crap out of me that the script didn’t seem to understand the difference between a space station and a space ship.

Bottom line: it’s just pointless and dull, but not actually bad. Just ‘why bother?’ I can’t recommend it lowly enough.

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