The Force is strong, but not enough
Director: Kyle Newman
Notable Cast: Chris Marquette, Sam Huntington, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Christopher McDonald, Seth Rogen
To be a fan of something means you are willing to defend it at all costs. Draw a line in the sand and take on all detractors, never giving in an inch. This sort of devotion is prime material for something like Fanboys – a love song for those who believe Star Wars is the zeitgeist of pop culture.
It is a comedy that has been sorely mishandled by its distributor, The Weinstein Company. Originally set to be released in cinemas back in August 2007, re-shoots and re-edits pushed the date back to January 2008, then April 2008, and again to September, then November. Now it will finally reach some of the major markets in February 2009. The film has been riddled with controversy; the Weinsteins had the movie re-cut to omit a subplot about a cancer-stricken character. The plot has been re-inserted into the final cut, but its placement is so unconvincing that I suspect director Kyle Newman had to make sure his final cut met a laundry list of requirements.
What we are left with is a road picture that doesn’t add much to a genre that has seen the Harold & Kumar and Sex Drive comedies in recent years. It could be because Fanboys has jokes that only fans of the George Lucas trilogy would get (or enjoy). Or, the amount of traveling that takes place – going from Ohio to California, with some unscheduled stops along the way – makes for a bumpy ride. To its credit, though, the comedy provides some smiles, mostly the obscene amount of cameos.
At the start it’s 1998, Halloween night. A group of friends in Ohio, well past high school, are geeking over the upcoming Phantom Menace release, arriving in six month’s time. We all probably have friends like these, who are passionate about certain movies, books or television shows. But a six-month waiting period is too long for Linus (Chris Marquette), Eric (Sam Huntington), Hutch (Dan Fogler), Windows (Jay Baruchel) and Zoe (Kristen Bell). Especially Linus, the friend that’s ill with terminal cancer; he won’t live to see the premiere. They decide to take a road trip so the wish could be fulfilled. They will drive from Ohio to Skywalker Ranch, break in and steal an unfinished copy. But in their travels are stops to Riverside, Iowa (the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk), Austin, TX (where they meet Aintitcool.com’s Harry Knowles – played by My Name is Earl‘s Ethan Suplee), and Las Vegas.
Like any road movie there is detours, and the characters interact with a lot of strange people. The script has an underdeveloped romance between two in the group, and the dialogue’s raunchiness is tame compared to the comedies produced by Judd Apatow. If only one of the characters was able to go off like Randal in Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Fanboys could have used that kind of edge, to help boost its hit-or-miss humor.
Also not clicking is the characterizations of Linus and Eric. I have a hard time believing they could have ever been friends, despite Eric once having a passion for drawing comic books.
What does work in Fanboys is the filmmakers paying tribute to fandom by including a plethora of cameos from some actors you wouldn’t even expect in a comedy like this. Billy Dee Williams as a Texas judge whose last name is Reinhold. The joke isn’t overly clever, having already made for a fun gag in the short-lived animated series for Clerks, with Judge Reinhold lending his own voice. Carrie Fisher plays a nurse; Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, playing their alter egos Jay and Silent Bob, along with Zak Knutson (aka Clerks II‘s “Sexy Stud”); William Shatner as himself; and Seth Rogen as three different characters. George Lucas doesn’t give a cameo, but he gave the filmmakers his blessing and allowed them to use the famed sounds of the lightsabers during the film’s opening Weinstein Co. graphic.
Fanboys is absorbed with pop culture, referencing everything from Star Wars and The Legend of Zelda, to various TV shows and comic books. The filmmakers celebrate the fanboy culture, poking fun at it but in a good way. I may not have the same love as others do for George Lucas’s original trilogy, but I’d be a fool if I didn’t see a little bit of me in some of the characters.
Still, it remains a broad comedy. While not an outright recommendation, I’ll say that you’ll enjoy some of the cameos, and if you hold out long enough you can catch Kristen Bell in a Princess Leia bikini. That’s better than bull’s-eyeing womp rats on your T-16.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: George Lucas, Star Wars