For a certain breed of dedicated, Jedi-robe-wearing, Boba Fett-imitating aficionados of George Lucas' sci-fi franchise, Kyle Newman's Fanboys is the most eagerly awaited film since Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And we know how well that turned out.
Fanboys takes the 1999 release of Menace, the first new Star Wars film in 16 years, as a generational tipping point, particularly for four Lando-quoting friends in their early 20s during late 1998. When Linus (Chris Marquette) reveals he's dying from terminal, unspecific cancer, the foursome road trip from Ohio to California, intent on breaking into Skywalker Ranch to see a rough cut of the film.
First scheduled for release in August 2007, Fanboys became an online cause celebre when the Weinstein Company reshot the film to cut out the downbeat cancer subplot. The fans struck back (in part by threatening to boycott last summer's Superhero Movie) and the sickness storyline was restored. The cancer subplot unfortunately proves mawkish and contrived, but at least it helps justify behavior that would otherwise be illegal and stalkerish.
Mostly Fanboys proves just how low films like Clerks have set the bar for comedies about fandom and geek culture. The characterizations have about as much substance as Obi-Wan Kenobi's ghost: There's the conflicted yuppie (Sam Huntington), the lovelorn geek (Knocked Up's Jay Baruchel), and the loud, horny slob (Jack Black wannabe Dan Fogler). In contrast to Edgar Wright's savvy but warm movies, the script lacks enough insight and self-reflection to make the roles interesting. Since Star Wars satires have been done to death, most of the jokes don't have enough surprise to carry much impact; the year-and-a-half delay certainly didn't help. Some of the funniest shtick involves the band Rush and George Lucas' all-but-forgotten first film, which qualify as relatively fresh targets.
Fanboys features walk-on appearances from geek-appeal celebrities, but they're the sort who, frankly, turn up in this kind of movie all the time, anyway. If you took out the cameos and Han Solo references and added more toplessness, Fanboys' road-trip slapstick would be slightly better than the average National Lampoon straight-to-DVD yuckfest. Still, Fanboys' final line gets such a big, satisfying laugh that it almost makes you appreciate the film retroactively. Most of the time, however, you watch Fanboys and think, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
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