This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Calling "Space Station 76" a spoof of 1970s science fiction doesn't do the trick. It's quiet, slow movie that's often funny, sometimes sad, and occasionally uncomfortable. There are belly laughs, many of them concentrated in the office of a robot psychiatrist who barks shrink-speak at its patients; parts of this machine's sentences sound as if they were filled in with a recorded database of nouns, Mad Lib-style. ("How is your one CHILD?" "I'm upping your dosage of VALIUM.") But it's not trying to be another "Spaceballs" or a zero-gravity "Anchorman." Even as "Space Station 76" serves up sketch-comedy style banter and splendid-ridiculous 70s costumes and sets (the hallways and rooms are lit with round-edged, quadrilateral panels) it never seems to be mocking its characters. It feels for them. Sometimes its heart breaks for them.
The script preserves the era's retrograde sexual politics along with its groovy designs. The title spacecraft's skipper, Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson), is an alcoholic sexist. He's deep in the closet, too, which explains why he grimaces all the time and snaps at people. He promoted his last second-in-command to a plum job so suddenly that the whole station is speculating on his motives. When Glenn finds out that his new lieutenant is a kindhearted woman named Jessica Marlowe (Liv Tyler), he's so deflated that the filmmakers might as well have put a Sad Trombone noise on the soundtrack.
The gallery of supporting characters includes company employees, significant others, and one small child. All would've been right at home on a '70s soap opera. The chipper Misty (Marisa Coughlan) downs Valium the way other people eat Tic-Tacs, repeats '70s self-help slogans, and prides herself on her ability to "cook" (i.e., choose which items the station's automated chefs will put in the food machines). She's all but quit having sex with her husband Ted (Matt Bomer of TV’s “White Collar”), a technician who lost a hand in a space battle and replaced it with what looks like an aluminum mitten. Misty and Ted's daughter Sunshine (Kylie Rogers) buddies up to Jessica, who wants to have children but can't and looks perpetually bereft as a result. Misty is secretly having an affair with Steve (Jerry O'Connell), a horny man-boy whose wife Donna (Kali Rocha) just had a baby. It's that kind of space station.
The TV series "Space: 1999"—forgotten now by everyone but Martin Landau completists—seems seems to have been a visual influence, along with "Silent Running," "Logan's Run," the 1970s TV versions of "Buck Rogers" and "Battlestar Galactica," and anything else with jumpsuits. The starship footage is presented without sound, presumably out of respect for scientific accuracy, even as the characters smoke cigarettes, fetch food from futuristic automats, and tell robots to make them Harvey Wallbangers. The movie is a relic that was made just a couple of years ago.