Four friends embark on a roadtrip across America, hoping to break into Skywalker Ranch and watch The Phantom Menace before its release.
Fanboys opens with the arc lights of the Weinstein logo moving perfectly to the vvvzzzzz of Ben Burtt’s lightsaber sound effects. It must have seemed like a nice in-gag at the time, but now it seems like a portent, for Kyle Newman’s thin but entertaining love letter to all things Lucasian entered a protracted duel with Harvey Weinstein’s stormtroopers — a Stop Darth Weinstein campaign launched on the internet — that forced the film to be delayed for two years. But like the Ewoks on Endor, the little men won, and this enjoyable Apatow-lite comedy now gets its day in the twin suns.
The bone of contention surrounding this simple tale of four buddies (and Kristen Bell) travelling cross-country to break into Skywalker Ranch to see The Phantom Menace ahead of time was a sub-plot that saw one of the friends dying from the Big C. If it adds a gallant dimension to the journey, it is also the kind of movie cancer that rears its ugly head only when the story needs it. This convenience also spreads to the central quartet. Sam Huntington’s wannabe comic-book artist, Jay Baruchel’s über-nerd, Dan Fogler’s Jack Black-alike loud mouth and Chris Marquette’s terminally ill sage are all familiar teen movie tropes, but the cast bring likable energy.
Basically, this is Sex Drive with wookiee references. The road trip strings together a dust up with Harry Knowles (My Name Is Earl’s Ethan Suplee), a funny run-in with Trekkies, an unfunny dance routine in a gay biker’s “cantina”, a drug session with an Indian shaman (Danny Trejo) and a session with Vegas hookers and their tattooed pimp (Seth Rogen). Woven in are fun cameos from genre faves William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Kevin Smith and Ray Park, until the action reaches the Ranch and the gang have to get past Danny McBride as aTHX-1138-inspired security guard.
The Star Wars riffing is bountiful, and the film nicely captures the
way Star Wars dialogue has entered a generation’s vernacular: rather than call, “Shotgun!” to bag the front passenger seat, they shout, “Chewie!” But, for the most part, the screenplay mistakes allusion for actual jokes. Still, it’s a fun diversion, infused with spirit, and provokes a tangible sense of longing for that happy, heady time pre-May 19, 1999.
Fond, affectionate and at times pretty funny homage to young Rebels everywhere.