Dir: Kyle Newman. US. 2008. 90 mins.
Honouring (and satirising) the Star Wars franchise and the legions of fans who have devoted their lives to worshipping at its altar, Fanboys simply isn’t as incisive or hilarious as it should be. Constructed as a road movie which follows a group of nerdy friends trying to make it to the Promised Land (aka Star Wars auteur George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch), this long-delayed comedy may pique the interest of Star Wars fans, but the film’s slapdash humour and broad characterisations will have most everyone else heading to another galaxy far, far away.
Fanboys opens in limited release in the US on February 6, where, with no major stars in the lead roles and burdened by a consistently-delayed release as The Weinstein Company made room for reshoots and an altered storyline, it seems destined to become a cult curio rather than a major hit.
Set in 1998, it follows a group of friends from college (Sam Huntington, Dan Fogler and Jay Baruchel) as they travel from Ohio to the Skywalker ranch so that their dying, cancer-stricken pal Linus (Christopher Marquette) can see the first Star Wars prequel in advance of its release. But to accomplish this task, the friends will need to break into the compound and steal a print of the film.
When Fanboys was originally completed, the cancer plotline reportedly caused concern, prompting reshoots, but, several planned release dates later, Fanboys has finally emerged with its original storyline preserved. But while Linus’s grave medical condition adds some pathos and urgency to the friends’ quest, this is mostly a sophomoric road movie with sex jokes and scatological humour. And, after paying brief lip service to his cancer, Fanboys focuses on its true interest, which is the endless cataloguing of George Lucas-related allusions (including nods to the Indiana Jones series, Willow and THX 1138) through dialogue and visual homage. A few of these gags are funny, but screenwriters Ernest Cline and Adam F. Goldberg aren’t very inspired in their references, resulting in a tame send-up of nerd culture which seems to lack a genuine affection for the targets of the satire.
Over the course of the film the characters run into Hollywood notables (like Seth Rogen and Kevin Smith) and people involved in the Star Wars franchise (Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams) who play fictional characters, but these cameos never really perk up the proceedings. A noticeable comedic laziness hangs over the script, with endless recall of scenes from Star Wars which never really get to the heart of why this commercial juggernaut has become so engrained, beloved and reviled in our society.
Kyle Newman doesn’t help matters by encouraging broad performances which make the movie feel like a series of sketches. Two cast members escape relatively unscathed, however: Dan Fogler as the gang’s resident loudmouth, and Kristen Bell makes a cute tomboy who seems to be the only woman who will have anything to do with these hopeless geeks.
Trigger Street Productions
The Weinstein Company
Adam F. Goldberg
(story by Ernest Cline and Dan Pulick)
Director of photography