– Summary –
Director : Kyle Newman
Cast : Jay Baruchel, Sam Huntington, Dan Fogler, Kristen Bell, Chris Marquette, David Denham, Christopher McDonald, Bill Dee Williams, Danny Trejo, Ethan Suplee, Seth Rogen, William Shatner.
Year Of Release : 2009
Length : 90 Minutes
Synopsis: When word leaks out that a rough cut of the new Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace, is hidden on George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, a group of desperate Star Wars geeks traverse America to sneak in and take a look. Obvious sci-fi references and cross-cultural comedy abounds.
Review : For the fan of Star Wars, or science fiction generally, this film will hit exactly the right spot. For those who don’t quite subscribe to the red-shirt philosophy of utter fan-dom, this film may leave you a little baffled. probably best avoid if you don’t get into your inner geek. If the phrase “Han shoots first” doesn’t mean anything to you, avoid this film.
A hilarious genre classic, Fanboys will be manna from Heaven for those of you bereft of new Star Wars films coming any time soon. Essentially an ode to a time before The Phantom Menace sullied our collective imaginations, Fanboys juxtaposes the Wars/Trek humour of sci-fi geeks and the hyperventilating experience of anticipating the “new” Star Wars film (back in 1999), to create a warm, funny, geeky kind of film fan-boys can relate to. A kind of retro-road trip film, featuring a plethora of wonderfully funny cameos throughout, Fanboys skirts outright parody for genuine humour and drama, a mix between the two often not seen in films where the core message is one of desperate geekiness.
Set in the days prior to the release of The Phantom Menace, a trio of friends embark on a last ditch effort to see the supposed rough cut of the film before one of them dies of cancer. Linus (Marquette) has cancer, and his friends Hutch (Dan Fogler), Windows (Jay Baruchel), Bottler (Sam Huntington, who played Jimmy Olsen in the recent Superman Returns) and Zoe (Kristen Bell) decide to take their dying friend to Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to see a bootleg cut of the movie. Their efforts are sparked by the fact that Linus only has roughly four months to live, and the film won’t be released for six. Using information promised to them by an online girlfriend of Windows, they pile into Hutch’s Millennium Falcon-themed panel-van and begin their trip to the San Fernando valley. As you’d expect from a road-trip film, which this essentially is, the group encounter a myriad of bizarre scenarios that stretch their friendship and loyalty to breaking point, all in the name of good clean fun, of course. From the riotous escape from the police by going to light speed (a la Han Solo and his recalcitrant spacecraft), to the fan war between Trek and Wars via Captain Kirk’s home state of Iowa, the film rumbles from one ridiculous set-up to the next with the exuberance of historic hubris.
Kyle Newman has crafted a brilliant film from what is essentially a one-note idea: while the script shoehorns in a plethora of classic zingers and decidedly strange set-pieces (the weirdest of the bunch: a detour to a gay motorcycle bar filled with transvestite bikers!) the human drama of the race against time keeps the film from becoming a Zucker/Abrams clone. Some of the film drags a little, or contains almost no coherence to reality (Bottler’s father-car-yard sub-plot in particular seems forced and under-developed), but on the whole is filled with enough honest zeal to keep the momentum going for the full 90 minutes. The aforementioned cameos from various stars of both Star Trek and Star Wars, as well as “Harry Knowles” from aintitcoolnews.com, brighten the mood of the film whenever it gets a little dark and depressing. After all, one of the central characters is dying. The film deviates a little to pay some crap out on Star Trek, particularly the die-hard Trekkies (or Trekkers, whichever you prefer), and this banter is genuinely amusing, if a little insular. Fanboys certainly won’t appeal to anybody not already familiar with the concepts on offer here.
Fanboys comes across as somewhat nostalgic, a glint in the eye mandatory for those days prior to George Lucas abomination actually being released to the public. The Phantom Menace was, at the time, one of the single most anticipated films in history, and Fanboys both recreates and doffs its cap to that fact. Those halcyon days should be remembered fondly, before the Force was explained as a virulent symbiotic relationship, and Jar Jar Binks came into being. Fanboys attempts to do so, all with it’s tongue firmly in cheek. The cast all perform admirably, albeit with the low-rent production value of the film limiting the amount of retakes and re-shoots that could be done, Newman has cobbled together a great little movie. According to various internet sources, Fanboys production was beset with issues including re-cutting by a different director, re-shoots and bitter arguments. Thankfully, the version available to the public now is as close to that original version as you’re likely to see: apparently director Newman had to re-insert the cancer storyline within 36 hours after it was removed by screenwriter Steven Brill and producer Harvey Weinstein.
Behind-the-scenes problems aside, the character of the film itself remains true: the friendship and loyalty of true fan-boys will always win out. For casual viewers, people unfamiliar with, or who don’t appreciate, the fervour of fans of Star Wars, this film will probably be decidedly unfunny, as well as somewhat empty. For the rest of us, Fanboys is a warm-hearted tribute to days past, a loving pastiche of ribald humour and in-jokes aimed squarely a the titular legion of fans who’ll no doubt gobble up every reference and wink to the camera. Fanboys is a fan-boys delight.