Space Milkshake

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/22/13 22:03:05

"A smooth enough concoction."
3 stars (Just Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2013 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FEST: As of this writing, "Space Milkshake" hasn't actually been purchased by SyFy (or its Canadian equivalent Space) to run as a Saturday night original movie, but that's what it is: A low-budget sci-fi movie just long enough that commercials will pad it to fill a two-hour timeslot, with a cast of people perhaps most noteworthy for the other genre productions they've appeared in. At least this one wants to make jokes, rather than content itself with being one.

A couple of shuttles are heading to an orbiting debris-removal space station as the movie opens - one absconding from an Antarctic research base and one carrying Jimmy (Robin Dunne), the new technician reporting for duty. He's not exactly welcomed with open arms; Anton (Billy Boyd), the captain, is generally cranky, in part because his second in command Valentina (Amanda Tapping) has dumped him. The other person on the station, the eminently crush-worthy Tilda (Kristin Kreuk), basically ignores him. It's not the exciting life in space he'd dreamed about - at least, not until they salvage the wreckage of the first ship and things get really strange.

Even as a threat to all life on all Earths rears its head and Valentina's rubber duck starts talking with the voice of George Takei, this is less an action/adventure movie than a "hell is other people" comedy. Anton, Valentina, and Tilda have been cooped up in this box long enough that they mainly irritate each other, and Jimmy's enthusiasm is just going to annoy them further. It's a somewhat mean-spirited form of comedy, but since none of them are really bright enough to plot against the others, it never really gets off-puttingly dark.

Heck, once Tilda actually starts talking, parts of the movie are actually cute and upbeat. The jokes amuse more often than not, and when one doesn't (as will happen), the next one isn't more than a few seconds away, even if it is just Jimmy tripping on his way through a hatch again. Writer/director Armen Evrensel doesn't tend to take a long time to set up something that awkwardly splats on arrival, and the cruder jokes and gross-out moments work because they leave a good amount to the imagination. It can be somewhat hit and miss, and the self-deprecation ("it doesn't take itself so seriously!") is generally more pleasant than defensive.

It helps to have a cast that knows how to handle this material. All four main cast members are credited as a producer of one stripe or another, so they're more invested than they may be at a convention autograph session; they've also got plenty of experience at saying ridiculous things with a straight face and acting against a green screen or animatronic, and that's a useful skill to have here. They're also fairly funny individually; with Billy Boyd doing his frenzied Scot thing and Amanda Tapping responding with withering looks. Robin Dunne and Kristin Kreuk are both pretty entertainingly earnest as the new guy and the weird-but-friendly girl. George Takei's got a distinctive voice, but it doesn't quite work.

Armen Evrensel does all right for a guy with relatively few credits and not a whole lot of cash. The movie's got a few clunky moments and some sets that look more cheap-movie-set than lived-in-universe. He does better than usual at balancing the movie as both a series of jokes and a thing with a plot that puts the characters in real (if peculiar) danger, while a lot of more experienced directors will grind the gears shifting from one to another.

That's not a small victory; the jokes about this sort of movie are generally well-earned, and while "Space Milkshake" rises above them, it's not by leaps and bounds. But when the time comes when 90 minutes of B-movie sci-fi with familiar faces feels good, this is a pretty good choice.

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