Review: Space Station 76 (Fantasia Film Festival)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: The lives and loves of the crew of Space Station 76, a lonely refueling outpost whose uneventful existence is shaken up by the arrival of a new second-in-command, Jessica (Liv Tyler), who immediately clashes with the station’s commander, the deeply closeted Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson). Meanwhile, the ship’s mechanic (Matt Bomer) is having problems with his pill-popping wife (Marisa Coughlan).

REVIEW: You gotta love seventies sci-fi. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (O.G version), THE BLACK HOLE, SATURN 3, BLAKE’S 7, SPACE 1999, etc. Who ever thought the future would look so much like the seventies? Jack Plotnick, an actor best known for his hilariously off-kilter performance in Quentin Dupieux’s WRONG, is at the helm of this deliberately campy homage to seventies sci-fi, notably paying tribute to the year 1976, coincidentally the bicentennial year, and the year before STAR WARS came along and made sci-fi a little more timeless.

Probably the best movie to compare SPACE STATION 76 to is David Wain’s cult classic WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. This does to seventies space opera what that did for “horny kids at camp” late-seventies-eighties flicks. Like WET HOT, this looks back at that era with a knowing eye, lampooning the attitudes of the time towards things that would have been taboo in the seventies.

Don’t expect any aliens or laser fights (although one can always hold out hope for the sequel). Rather, this focuses on the bored space station crew as they grapple with private drama. The cast is brilliantly led by Patrick Wilson as the station’s closeted captain, whose old second-in-command/lover just left him, only to be replaced by Liv Tyler’s more than capable recruit, a fact that irks the misogynist captain. Wilson’s really funny with his self-loathing, closeted captain infuriated by anyone who’d question his manhood, but heartbroken over the fact that he’s been ditched by his boyfriend. Wilson plays this mostly for laughs, but also manages to find a few genuinely humane moments scattered throughout, such as a surprisingly sad (but ultimately funny) holographic phone call he makes to his ex.

By comparison, Liv Tyler and Matt Bomer, as the de-facto romantic leads, are a bit less memorable although that’s not so much a slight against them as much as it’s due to Wilson being so hilarious. Bomer’s got a nifty “seventies-tech” robot hand that looks like a wood-paneled power glove, while Tyler brings her trademark warmth to the kindly new second-in-command who’s despised by the station’s housewives, led by a memorably nasty Marisa Coughlan.

Coughlan’s character – Misty – is probably the most “seventies-esque” being like she was ripped right off a bad soap of the era, and she plays it to perfection. Her sessions with the station’s android psychiatrist – a ridiculously low-tech robot called “Dr.Bot” are some of the funniest bits of the movie, with it constantly upping her valium dose to the point that she’s stumbling around the ship in a daze. Her precocious young daughter, Sunshine (Kylie Rogers) begins to look to Tyler as a mother surrogate, which irks Misty to the point that nothing, including cryogenically frozen pets, is free from her wrath.

SPACE STATION 76 really is a lot of fun, especially if you’re nostalgic for the era. All the lampoon-worthy mistakes from the era are acknowledged, from the hideous fashions and décor, to the constant drinking and smoking, with one character doing both while breastfeeding, a scene which got lots of laughs at the sold-out Fantasia screening. This may well be a cult classic waiting to happen.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.