Review: “Fanboys”

February 7, 2009 at 12:47 am 1 comment

Not to be confused with another indie release also entitled Fanboys (2003), this Fanboys (2009) is an at-times touching, and occasionally funny tribute to the legacy of Star Wars and the fans that follow the films.  The movie had some controversy not too long ago, which delayed the release of the film.  The Weinstein Company (the movie’s distributors), had some issue regarding a subplot which involved one of the characters dying of cancer.  Worry not, young padawans, the subplot is intact, however the movie is only slightly better with it.

Taking place in 1998, a group of friends, and die-hard Star Wars nerds, reconnect at a Halloween party after being apart for nearly 3 years.  Well, it’s actually only one of them that was absent, Eric (Sam Huntington), who is trying to ‘make it’ in the post-high school world by working in the family car dealership.  Linus (Christopher Marquette), Eric’s best friend, was hurt the most by his absence, and refuses to make amends.  Rounding out the cast is skinny geek Windows (Jay Baruchel), loud and obnoxious Hutch (Dan Fogler), and hot nerd-girl Zoe (Kristen Bell).  When Eric finds out that Linus is dying of cancer, the crew decide to take a road-trip to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to try and view an early cut of The Phantom Menace.

The bulk of the movie follows typical road-trip/teen comedy conventions, with the exception of a few cool cameos by some Star Wars alumni, the captain himself William Shatner, and by Apatow Productions regulars like Seth Rogen.  Some notable sequences include Windows meeting his online girlfriend for the first time, an ass-kicking given by Ain’t-It-Cool-News founder Harry Knowles (Ethan Suplee), and confrontations with Trekkies.

While the movie definitely has its comedic moments, occasionally it reaches too far for the emotional impact.  The script feels like its beating into your head the whole notion of ‘growing up’ and giving up childhood fantasies like Star Wars.  I lost count how many times Eric berates the others for living in the past and not getting real jobs.  Also, the whole subplot about Linus having cancer isn’t fully fleshed out.  It’s brought up every now and then, and leads to a funny moment with Carrie Fisher, but it doesn’t really grab hold of the emotional heartstrings of the audience like it should.  To me, it should be the emotional core of the story, yet it stays just out of reach for the filmmakers.

Also, there’s a subplot involving a romance between one of the guys and Zoe.  I didn’t buy it for a second.  Kristen Bell is ridiculously hot, and I don’t believe someone wouldn’t notice that after being her good friend for most of her life.  On a related note, there’s a scene in the movie with Bell in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit, and that alone is almost worth the price of admission.

All that being said, what the movie does get right is what Star Wars means to fans.  Their road-trip isn’t just about fulfilling a dying man’s wish, it’s the fulfillment of the wish of every child.  In the original film (A New Hope), Luke Skywalker embarks on an adventure to meet a goal that seems completely out of his reach.  He must confront insurmountable odds in order to fulfill his destiny.  That’s the dream of every child, no matter where you came from or even if you’ve seen Star Wars or not.

While the movie does poke fun at the legions of Star Wars nerds, much in the same way the documentary series Trekkies makes fun of Star Trek fans, Fanboys is also an homage to their dedication.  Not to give anything away, but the final few shots in the movie nearly brought me to tears.  It’s opening night of The Phantom Menace, and the characters are at the first midnight showing.  The theatre is packed, and as soon as the 20th Century Fox Fanfare starts playing, there’s applause.  Loud, raucous applause.

I remember being there, in May of 1999, when the lights went down and the theatre fell silent.  The Fanfare played, then, quietly, the legendary words appear in blue: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.”  And then the music blasts through the speakers.  John Williams’ ‘Star Wars Main Theme’ explodes into the air.  The theatre goes berserk.

Those memories instantly flooded back to me.  Not just memories of the release of The Phantom Menace, but the re-releases back in 1997, and the subsequent premieres of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  That’s what Fanboys gets right.  Not necessarily perfect, but right; the place that George Lucas’ creation holds in the hearts of countless fans.  Fanboys may not be a comedy for everyone, but for those that remember what its like to wait hours, even days, in line for “just a movie”, Fanboys is a great salute to those memories.

7.5/10

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. superman815  |  February 7, 2009 at 6:02 am

    i cant wait to see this film, so much hype over it..

    Reply

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