Here’s the whole movie for you freeloaders out there:

The Plot: Whales!

What Doesn’t Work: This is one of the weirdest things ever to be inserted into a Star Trek movie, or any mainstream movie:

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It’s really weird that a Star Trek movie had time for several minutes of an experimental short film in the middle of it. On the one hand it’s different and strange in a way that some people like. On the other, for an experimental film, it’s pretty simple to understand and decode. Why go avant-garde if you’re going to keep it so simple? It’s ultimately sort of a shallow gesture, trying to give people a feeling of unearned sophistication. After a few watches for me it’s just, why is this here? Aside from Leonard Nimoy liking it, I have no idea.

The soundtrack also kind of sucks. Worst one in the original batch of films, and the lack of either James Horner or Jerry Goldsmith as a composer is felt here. I particularly dislike the bit of jazzy ’80s music when they’re first walking the streets of San Francisco, it jars more and more as I watch the film. There’s too much whimsy here and elsewhere, and while it doesn’t kill the humor, it’s just kind of precious and annoying. It’s what I imagine a bad Eddie Murphy movie from the era would be soundtracked to, like Best Defense, perhaps.

Also, is Sarek really such a big deal that he can walk into any room he pleases? Actually, I take it back. I’m not going to be the one to tell him no.

What Does Work: Star Trek is not often that great at comedy. This is an exception. The middle part of the film finds some great fish-out-of-water gags without making “modern” San Francisco seem unrealistically crazy. I actually quite like its take on mid-80s SF, what with its blue collar feel, checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurants, furious cab drivers, one last punk rocker, passive-aggressive doctors, and beautiful idealists. Quite a lot has changed, but it feels pretty credible as a snapshot of the time, if a bit less scuzzy than it actually was.

I guess it’s well-known that Eddie Murphy was supposed to play this role. I like a lot of Eddie Murphy’s output during this era but I think it would have been a bad move, because I’m not sure they would have been able to resist overdoing it and having him basically do his act for the movie. And while the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies did have him mixing drama and comedy quite well, there’s no way it wouldn’t have been distracting stunt-casting, with Murphy probably taking over the movie. Plus, Shatner and Hicks have a nice, understated semi-romance that I really do like and wouldn’t want to lose. I don’t really think the most-quoted scene in the movie would have worked with Eddie Murphy:

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This is not a very deep movie. There are no profound ruminations on death or duty. It’s just a fun comedy with a pro-ecology message, and that’s fine! I actually think it’s a great change of pace, and one of the things I really do respect about the original cast run of movies is how they weren’t repeating themselves. Each movie is different, has a different look and feel, different themes. They’re not always great but at least there was some suspense as to what you were going to get. Now you know at least 25% of what you’re going to get from each movie, which makes it less fun to me.

Legacy: It’s generally regarded as good, full of solid character moments and quality comedy, if a bit on the light side. I’d argue it’s underrated, actually. It’s light and dismissed a little for it, but it works well for what it aims to be. Making good comedy is HARD! Nimoy didn’t exactly hit a home run with The Search For Spock but this is a major step forward for him as a director. They say that comedy is easier to direct but harder to write, and he definitely has a stronger script with this one, but I also think it is well-directed. There’s a nice use of framing with some of the gags, like the huge Yellow Pages ad. Mostly, though, the jokes are verbal and he keeps out of the way of the dialog, with a nice, minimalistic style. It’s exactly the right approach, and requires a certain lack of ego that a lot of directors don’t have. And look, much of this is silly, but it doesn’t matter one damn bit. It’s funny and lively throughout.

Also, good movies are hard to review, but good comedies are the hardest, because what can you say a lot of the time, other than, “It’s funny!” There’s a nice character arc for Spock, I guess, and the ending is also really damned satisfying. That’s all.

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