Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Space is no place for thespians

Imagine that you've got box seats to a Neil Diamond concert. Love him or hate him, Neil's a showman: You will get your money's worth. The lights dim, the string section plays the opening bars of "America," and your warm, fuzzy head is instantly filled with blood and anticipation. Only when the lights come up, it's not the Jazz Singer onstage, it's Christopher Cross, caught between the moon and New York City.

Simply put, this would be a major, major bummer. Most, if not all, of the crowd would stand up and exit the venue immediately. Funny thing is, Cross is a technically proficient musician. His music sounds pretty. It's just utterly devoid of edge, drama, grit and soul.

This encapsulates why I turned Star Trek: Insurrection off after twenty minutes. Patrick Stewart is a marvelous thespian -- and that's the problem. Nobody would ever claim the same about William Shatner, his recent Golden Globe notwithstanding (it's worth noting that Shatner actually read the inscription on the award aloud during the ceremony to make sure it wasn't all a big practical joke). Beneath Captain Kirk's campy, cocksure sheen lurked a vulnerable, insecure train wreck waiting to happen. Every time Shatner lusted after a she-alien with an aardvark nose and lobster pincers for fingers, the viewer sensed that the wings of the Enterprise were about to split off, sending Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and the rest of the crew hurtling aimlessly into outer space's darkest, deepest frontiers.

Insurrection, like the totality of the Next Generation spinoffs, is emotionally vacant. Unlike Shatner, Stewart handles even the dodgiest situations with assuredness -- and therefore undermines the entire franchise. He's got such a long way to go (such a long way to go) to make it to the border of Mexico.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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