...suck. That's the only way any sentence beginning with the word "fanboys" should ever be allowed to end. Hardcore, fundamentalist fans of anything are amongst the most annoying people ever to be regurgitated into the world. Even fans of things I really like are almost invariably insufferable. So you can probably well imagine my opinion of a film that lionizes these emotionally stunted denizens of their mothers' basements. Yes, it does laugh at them as well as with them, but that's not the point of a comedy. The point, in case anyone missed it, is to make the audience laugh. And frankly, I mostly groaned.
The fact is, I love Star Wars. I grew up with Star Wars. But it's just a movie, or, well, several movies. It's not, and shouldn't be, a way of life. And I have to admit, I was predisposed to dislike this film after hearing of all the antics of real-life Star Wars fans concerning this film's release. Centering on a group of geeks making a cross-country trip to break into Skywalker Ranch in order to give their friend Linus, who is dying of cancer, a chance to see the then-upcoming Episode I: The Phantom Menace before he kicks it, the film caused a minor furor on the Internet when it was announced that the studio was planning to cut the cancer angle out of the film. Fans whined and shouted "boycott!" as fans are wont to do in these situations, with one fan site proclaiming that their efforts had deep-sixed the studio's latest offering, Superhero Movie, in retribution, and promising that if Fanboys wasn't released uncut, "every Star Wars fan will boycott every Miramax release from now on." If the inbred imbecile who made that claim is reading this, please take note of a few things: Correlation does not prove causation. Superhero Movie most likely failed because everyone could tell that it was a shitty movie; I've it on good authority that the previous film in that series, Epic Movie, is one of the worst pieces of crap ever committed to film. Second, you don't speak for every Star Wars fan. When a film is as hugely popular as that, it's because it's liked by large numbers of perfectly normal people who don't give a fuck about you, your boycott, or your Fanboys. Please do the world a favor and take Shatner's advice. You know what advice I mean.
Whatever the film may have been without the cancer subplot, it certainly isn't made into a piece of genius via the retention of it, as the film was eventually released as originally written. This honestly had to have been one of the easiest films to write since motion pictures began. Where's the difficulty when you don't actually have to come up with anything yourself? Simply comb through the Star Wars trilogy, extract as many lines as possible, reword a few slightly, and drench your skeletal plot structure with them until it's all covered with your geekgasm. A bunch of guys work while quoting Star Wars, drive across the US while quoting Star Wars, fail to notice hot fangirl played by Kristen Bell flashing them because they're too busy quoting Star Wars; after a while, one begins to lament that only one of them is dying. And while I'm on Kristen Bell-figuratively speaking; I'm not that lucky-I must mention that I feel my eyebrows raising with suspicion at the coffee shop named "Java the Hut" at which the characters stop at one point. Bell's turn as the title character on the excellent teen-private eye series Veronica Mars saw her working at a coffee shop with the exact same name, back in the show's 2005 season. Apparently, lifting bits from Star Wars itself wasn't enough.
The thing about pop culture references is that they are not jokes in and of themselves. They work, when they work, because they are apropos without the audience expecting to hear them. After five minutes, we cannot help but expect to hear them ad infinitum, as this gaggle of geeks makes every single conversation into a collection of references to exactly one already over-mined pop culture source. It's more than ponderous-by the end, I veritably felt that I never wanted to hear the words "Star Wars" ever again. There's also the near-inevitable fact that these sorts of road trip movies all have the same set of scenes, pulled from the Convenient Plot Events Grab Bag and sprinkled here and there: the drug trip scene, the brush with the law that conveniently blows over, the same set of people encountered twice against all reasonable odds, the guy too stupid to notice the hot girl who's really into him; we've seen it all before. If there was a new idea in here anywhere, in was hunkering down in the back someplace. Given a copy of Star Wars, a few episodes of That '70s Show and a couple of days to kill, one could probably assemble the bulk of this film out of stock footage.
There are, I will concede, a few good jokes here and there. The pimp with the full back tattoo of Jar Jar Binks ("This guy's going to be awesome!"), the THX guards at Skywalker Ranch and William Shatner's brief cameo as himself are laugh-worthy, and seeing Kristen Bell in the slave Leia outfit wasn't exactly a hardship. The ending of Linus' journey is handled well enough, and the film tactfully skirts the issue of just what a man who'd staked his final worldly hopes on The Phantom Menace might actually feel afterwards. But one look at the collection of (justifiably) deleted scenes on the DVD shows just how little the filmakers understood about the art of writing a movie. Even Jar Jar was showing us something fresh and new.
-review by Matt Murray