This review was updated on Jan. 18, 2006.
A monumentally silly Gallic answer to “Spaceballs,” “Ticket to Outer Space” boasts deadpan comedy, decent special effects and a score from spoof heaven. Send-up of space tourism functions because it’s played straight, and popular cast and delectably dopey premise should have launched this venture into comfortable local orbit Jan. 18. Offshore, sci-fi and comedy fests should take a look.
Story opens in France, 2030, as the nation’s most celebrated astronaut (Fred Maranber) and his helicopter pilot (a sheep) skim majestic scenery before landing for a high-profile audiovisual interview. The spaceman admits he never goes on a mission without a dog-eared scratch-and-win ticket, the story of which takes viewers back to 2005 for the body of the pic.
To drum up enthusiasm for Gaul’s space program back then, authorities ran a sort of Willy Wonka-style competition. The two lucky ticketholders — jovial Everyman Stephane (co-scripter Kad Merad) and more serious Yanis (Guillaume Canet, who also plays Yanis’ miscreant brother back on Earth) — win berths aboard a shuttle flight to the European Space Station.
The colonel in charge of the mission is straight-arrow Beaulieu (Olivier Barroux, Merad’s writing and acting partner). Pro crew includes lone female Capt. Soizic (Marina Fois).
The head of Mission Control (Andre Dussollier), whose noble pronouncements are always inadvertently insulting, is due to retire after the launch. But first, all concerned have to contend with an unconventional alien on board and a hostage crisis.
Proudly absurd situations flourish within an adventure framework that’s timeworn in Hollywood but a refreshing rarity in France. Production design is pro, with the distinctive headquarters of the French Communist Party serving as the set for Mission Control.
Opening credits boast titles touting bogus awards such as “Film Least Resembling Jean-Jacques Annaud’s ‘The Bear’ ” — a tip-off to the movie’s tonal mix of nobility and idiocy. Pic’s original English title was “Ticket Into Space.”