Genius Products // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 30th, 2009
"Nobody calls Han Solo a bitch!"
Fanboys was created as a love letter to Star Wars fans. But should they be marking it "return to sender?"
It's Halloween 1998 and childhood friends Linus (Chris Marquette, "Joan of Arcadia"), Eric (Sam Huntington, Superman Returns), Hutch (Dan Fogler, Kung Fu Panda), Windows (Jay Baruchel, Tropic Thunder) and Zoe (Kristine Bell, "Heroes") are self-professed Star Wars fans who are counting down the hours, minutes and seconds to the premier of Star Wars: Episode I. With Linus diagnosed with cancer, the friends decide to act on their grade-school plan to travel cross country and infiltrate Skywalker Ranch with the added bonus of sneaking a peek at the prequel footage before the rest of the world.
I'm a Star Wars fan. That's not that uncommon nowadays, but I was a fan way back at the beginning in 1977 when a certain farm boy first whined in the Tatooine desert. To me, a true fan is someone who can find the gems and value in anything related to the object of their fandom. Sure, I wasn't fond of Jar Jar, but we got Darth Maul too didn't we? Did I enjoy watching cute, fuzzy Ewoks beating armored guys with guns? Not so much, but in exchange, we got one of the most awesome on-screen sword battles in film history. I say these things to set the stage that in anything Star Wars, whether good or bad overall, I set out to find the silver lining. And yes, I even have toys on my desk at work...I'm that committed.
What's not to love about a film that is unabashedly presented as a love letter to the very geek that made the Star Wars franchise so cosmically successful around the world, from Toronto to Tokyo? A self-professed fanboy, director Kyle Newman wanted to make a film that recognized the loyalty of fans and tell a story that would appeal directly to fellow geeks. Set in the 90s, Fanboys will really appeal most to the segment of Star Wars fans who grew up knowing the prequel trilogy experience more than the original trilogy one. I had never really thought of Star Wars fans as being segmented, but for those of us who grew up with Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher on the big screen, we generally hold a special place in our memories for those films. But the children who grew up between 1999 and 2005 are more familiar with Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, and Natalie Portman. We may be one big happy geek family, but we're not without our loyalties.
Despite being somewhat flawed and self-interested at times, Fanboys does its best to deliver a positive message of the importance of friendship, believing in something you're passionate about and not being ashamed of who you are. The film has some great lines, some impressive cameos by a wide range of celebrities and Star Wars alumni, but where Fanboys fails is that when all is said and done, it's little more than a below-average road film with Star Wars wrapping. The viewer is introduced to likeable characters but is never really given a chance to care about them amid frat boy humor, sci-fi pop culture references, and a real sense of déjà vu -- and not in a good way. When the film debuted in theatres in the U.S. and Canada in February and April 2009 respectively, critical reception was less than kind. Some felt the film spent too much time glorifying the fanatical dedication of its heroes while others felt it was a weak entry in the already tired road film genre. The film's heart is in the right place, but it seems to stumble over the balance between being a coming-of-age story and a film written, directed by, and starring other fans.
The audio and video presentation are nothing special, but it's worth noting that both are clear of distortion and aren't distracting in any way. There is an assortment of extra features included, but given the dedication of the production team, director Kyle Newman and the cast, the offering is painfully weak. The cast and crew commentary track becomes annoying quickly as it includes four of the five main cast members, as well as Newman and writer Ernie Klein. It's nice that the group has so much fun with each other, but the commiserating and screen-specific nature of the commentary doesn't add anything to the experience.
The six deleted scenes were not missed from the main feature at all, essentially boiling down to more crude humor that did little more than distract from the flow of the story. "The Truth About Fanboys," "Star Wars Parallel," "4 Fanboys and 1 Fangirl" and "The Choreography" are all under 10 minutes each and offer no real additional value beyond some brief behind-the-scenes and on-set footage and the actors talking about their characters. Finally, "Disturbances in the Force: The Making of Fanboys" pulls together seven webisodes of additional behind-the-scenes moments. It may sound like there's a filling serving of extras here, but trust me, you'll be hungry again in half an hour.
The Star Wars franchise has meant, and continues to mean a lot to fans from the 70s through to the present day. With that wealth of history to draw on, it's unfortunate that Fanboys doesn't really manage to deliver more than a line drive. Apparently not to be swayed by lukewarm critical reception, Newman is rumored to be considering a sequel that would presumably involve Eric, Linus, Hutch and Windows and their plans around Episode II. Ummmm...guys? Maybe let's not.
Even diehard fans may find Fanboys tough to watch at times. It certainly means well, but there's a lot to wade through here to get to the good parts. Reminds me of bit of a certain prequel I saw once. Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to see this film, but won't likely want to bother adding it to their library and it wouldn't be the best place to start if you're trying to get new people interested in a galaxy far, far away; anyone else should probably pass altogether.
Guilty of not taking the time to offer more character development and plot,
versus junior high jokes.
Review content copyright © 2009 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes