Friday, July 03, 2009


Film: Fanboys (2008)
Dir: Kyle Newman
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Fanboys is like a time capsule for Star Wars geeks. It captures that feeling of naive joy that fans felt in the months preceding the release of The Phantom Menace. It recalls a time when George Lucas was still redeemable; when Darth Vader wasn't a whiney bitch; and when Jar Jar Binks did not exist. Then Episode I came along, and it was as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. At least we can look back on the hype with fond memories - like a calm before the storm. This film, though not without its flaws, captures that nostalgia fairly well.

Set in the pre-Menace days, Fanboys follows a group of teenagers who scheme to raid George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in hopes of stealing a print of the unreleased prequel, since their dying friend Linus won't live long enough to see it otherwise. Along the way, their misadventures involve the police, prostitutes, a lot of angry Trekkies, and Harry Knowles. It's basically a roadtrip movie of the geekiest kind.

The biggest draw for non-Wars fans is the cast, comprised of Kristen Bell, Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington, Jay Baruchel, and Chris Marquette. There are also a few Apatow-camp cameos. But let's be honest - this film is by, for, and about Star Wars fans. It is loaded with trilogy cameos and endless in-references. There may be a few moments of general humor, but the laughs are largely esoteric. So if you've never had a pretend lightsabre fight in your bedroom, this is not the movie for you.

As an all-purpose geek and fan of Lucas' original trilogy, I enjoyed Fanboys for the most part. Not all the jokes work, and some of the Wars references are amateur, but overall it's okay. My biggest complaint is the subplot involving Marquette's character Linus dying of cancer. It adds superfluous drama to an otherwise light-hearted comedy. And as a plot point, it is unnecessary. These guys don't need a reason to storm Skywalker Ranch other than the fact that it's a crazy break from their boring lives.

Now, I can appreciate the need to make them get off their butts and do it after years of promising they would. That is why the film has a subplot of two estranged friends - Eric and Linus - who decide to make amends. That motive was enough, the latter didn't also have to be dying. It's completely unecessary and distracting. It also cheapens the repaired-friendship bit because it seems like Eric only planned the adventure out of guilt, rather than a desire to get his friend back.

Anyway, for fans of Star Wars or general geekdom, Fanboys provides decent laughs and a pleasant sense of nostalgia for 1998. It is specifically aimed at us nerds, who secretly love being in a select group of people who get jokes about Tatooine and trash compactors. If you feel that geek pride, you are bound to enjoy this movie at least a little. On the other hand, if you don't even know what a Wookiee is, you should look elsewhere.