It has taken a journey worthy of the Hero Cycle: the movie Fanboys, written over a decade ago before Phantom Menace came out, has struggled against setbacks and massive executive meddling, has finally been released. It was many years in development and suffered delays (I first heard about it two years ago, when it was set to be released in the summer of ’07), so the question is, has it all been worth it?
The answer, as Master Yoda would say it, is a solid “Yes, hrrrrrmmmm.”
Halloween 1998. A group of friends from high school (Eric, Hutch, Windows, and Linus), all hardcore Star Wars nerds, reunite at a party, and discuss one of their craziest fantasies from their high school days: breaking into Skywalker Ranch.
Flash forward three months, and the plan doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. You see, Linus has cancer, and only has a few more months to live… not enough to wait for the day they all have waited for their whole lives: the release of a new Star Wars movie. But Windows’s internet girlfriend has access to floorplans to the Skywalker Ranch, making the plan a possibility. After some coercing all around, it is settled: they will travel from their home in Ohio to California to break in and steal the rough cut to Phantom Menace so Linus can see the film before he passes away.
What follows is a cross between a road movie and Star Wars geekery. (There are favorable comparisons to Free Enterprise, a cross between romantic comedy and Star Trek geekery). Some typical jokes and situations from the road movie formula are there, but overall, it feels pretty fresh. The heavy injection of Star Wars jokes and the heist aspect help the film stay humorous all the way through. Even non-Star Wars fans will find plenty to laugh at., though you’ll certainly get more out of the movie if you know why jumping down a garbage chute is important. There’s also a decent amount of character development that gives the journey extra gravitas, and it doesn’t cheaply pull on your heartstrings by being heavy handed about Linus’s cancer.
Plus, there’s some heavy duty cameos. The trailers give away one of the big “surprise” appearances, but it also features Billy D. Williams and Carrie Fisher not playing themselves (the scene with Carrie Fisher may have the best Star Wars joke in the entire movie). Seth Rogen even plays two opposing roles (and three total in the whole movie), and there’s a really good subtle Ray Park cameo.
Some of the executive meddling is quite obvious, and there are a number of dubbed-over scenes to add additional jokes that don’t always fly. However, the biggest problem is the release of the movie. Right now, the film is only showing in a small number of locations, with a few more coming soon… and it’s unknown if a wider release with actual advertising is coming. This is going to be a movie to buy on DVD for sure, especially if they release it with a director’s cut that takes out some of the obvious later additions.
If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the places playing it, and if you’re just like the protagonists and can easily answer what the Wookies’ home planet is named, go see Fanboys as soon as you can.