I’m a self-admitted and unabashed fan of Star Wars and, as such, I really wanted to love Fanboys. Sigh. Sadly it felt like too many people screwed with this cute little project about Star Wars fans until the result was something jumbled and broken, which, is of course, what happened.
The film follows the reunion of young used car salesmen Eric (Sam Huntington) with his old pals (Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, and Kristen Bell) still rocking to Star Wars years later and counting down the hours and minutes to Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After discovering Linus (Marquette) is dying of cancer and won’t live to see the premiere, Eric and his pals decide to storm the Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough-cut of the film.
What results is your basic geek road movie filled with cameos of various stars. The gang argue about the incestuous relationship of Luke and Leia, battle some Trekkies (led by Seth Rogen, in one of his many, many roles in the film), hit Vegas, and finally make it into the Lucas compound (with a little assistance from one William Shatner).
Although the film has some heart it takes us a little too long to get to know, and like, this band of nerds. Also troubling are the number of antics they go through to reach their destination (seriously, how many times can they take on the Trekkies?). Although some work of these work (Shatner’s cameo, the van hitting lightspeed) many are nothing more than lame regurgitation from other flicks of this type (the gay biker bar, the pretty girls who “happen” to be hookers in Vegas, the needless chase scenes). And although some of the cameos work many don’t. Do we really need to see Harry Knowles (Ethan Suplee) beating up our nerds or how Jay and Silent Bob spend their weekends? No, not really.
Even with these issues there are a number of things that work, most notably Kristen Bell (who’s sadly given the smallest role of the group). I’ve been a fan of Bell since her Veronica Mars days. And, no, I’m not praising her only for the way she fills out the Leia bikini (very nicely). Although, much like the other nerds, her character isn’t written all that well, she does infuse it will some spunky charm and grace. She’s also given one of my favorite lines of the film when trying to overhear a guard’s conversation with George Lucas (“I can hear his beard!”).
And, if at times they struggle with story, I will give screenwriters Ernest Cline and Adam F. Goldberg credit for filling the film with funny Star Wars references (even if all of them don’t quite work). The film works best when it allows the dialogue and nerdiness to come naturally, and struggles mightily when it tries to force big laughs. I also enjoyed how the script incorporated both Star Wars design and philosophy into the film, my favorites being fact that the most secure room in Skywalker Ranch has blast doors and how life itself is boiled down into a simple quest of finding your Death Star.
Fanboys isn’t a bad film, but it’s not likely to work all that well outside the rabid Lucas fan base. I’m a pretty huge Star Wars nerd and I had a very mixed reaction. If I had paid $10 to see it I would have felt a bit cheated, but if someone else is buying, or you luck into finding it on the tube in a couple years, it’s not too bad an experience. Fanboys isn’t a film that you feel stole any time from your life, but it doesn’t really add a memorable experience either (except perhaps the final line of the film, which I won’t spoil for you here, when it earns its biggest laugh).