Galaxy Turnpike (Gyarakush– Kaido)
Director/Screenplay – Koki Matani, Visual Effects Supervisor – Takashi Tanaka, Special Production Design – Miyuki Kitagawa. Production Company – Fuji Television Network/Toho Company Cine/Bazar Distributors
Shingo Katon (Noa), Haruka Ayase (Noe), Yuka (Lei), Zen Kajiwara (Baba Sahib), Shun Oguri (Officer Hatoya), Kenji Anan (Officer Tochiyama), Yasunori Danda (Hashimoto), Kenichi Endo (Mendes), Toshiyuki Nishida (Doctor Domoto), Shinobu Otake (Hana), Rika Tamura (Ilma), Koji Yamamoto (Tout Zetto), Sayaka Akimoto (Officer Manmo)
It is the year 2265. Noa manages a burger restaurant along the Galaxy Turnpike, the route between Earth and other planets but this has become a backwater that is hardly visited anymore. Noa is bored with the job and applies to be transferred back to Earth. He is surprised when his ex Lei arrives with her husband, Baba Sahib, one of the alien Assini. This brings back memories of how he and Lei worked as part of a theatrical troupe in which she was the star. However, he was turned off after seeing her disgusting burger-eating habits and went on to marry Noe. Noe feels concern about Lei’s arrival but is herself pursued by Mendes, an interior decorator come to remodel the restaurant, who is pressing her to have an affair. Meanwhile, Hashimoto has been sent to make an assessment report about whether the restaurant should be closed down but is distracted by seeing a mysterious mime and cartoon animals come to life. The security guard Hatoya confides in his colleague that he is from another galaxy and is actually the superhero Captain Socks. Hatoya now wants to return home but encounters problems when he tries to split up with his girlfriend Manmo. Elsewhere, Domoto decides to take an offer and explore extramarital possibilities with an alien only to find that Ilma, the Venusian call girl he has selected, is demanding money from him at every opportunity.
Galaxy Turnpike is a Japanese-made science-fiction comedy. The film did not enjoy a particularly high profile, although director Koki Matani is a seasoned comedy director.
From the description, I expected a genre parody along the lines of something like GalaxyQuest (1999). That is not quite the case. Zen Kajiwara’s alien husband is made up like a Vulcan from the various Star Trek franchises, while some of the costumes vaguely suggest Star Trek uniforms. On the other hand, there is no clear sense that the film is spoofing any specific targets. Rather what it resembles is Space Station 76 (2014), a retro-styled comedy that borrowed the look of sf shows of the past but otherwise followed various characters in their daily lives around a space station.
Like Space Station 76, Galaxy Turnpike has been intended as a comedy but sits less effectively as a science-fiction film. As science-fiction, it is light and fluffy, someone’s idea looking down of what the genre should be – ridiculous aliens, strange happenings – rather than something that takes it seriously. This is surely evidenced in some of the very silly things happening around the station – which is designed like a roadside diner on a literal highway through the stars; where mail delivery vans stop on the clouds en route and the driver gets out without having to worry about the vacuum and a mysterious air blows the mail away; where the ‘turnpike’ itself is sentient and manifests toons and a mime to persuade bureaucrat Yasunori Danda to not shut the place down.
The script has several characters and interactions that make up its running time. These pass back and forward with a snappy vigour, although in the end there was never anything about the film that I found particularly funny or amusing. The station itself is well designed, although the CGI effects of the giant Captain Socks are uncommonly shoddy.