Judge Daniel Kelly frequently finds himself in the dark side, forgetting to replace his bathroom light bulbs.
Our review of Fanboys, published July 30th, 2009, is also available.
Real fans don't wait in line.
Fanboys was trucked into a small number of theatres over a year ago, with no proper publicity and only a fiery production history to announce its arrival. The movie was shot in 2006, but due to a number of editorial disputes with the Weinstein Company, the project wasn't available for public consumption until nearly a full three years later. For the entirety of the production, a large swathe of the Star Wars community began to back the picture, helping it overcome any behind the scenes tension and quietly building a sense of anticipation for the movie amongst their own costumed and Jedi loving masses. For my money, the joke is unfairly on them. They fought hard for Fanboys to see release, but now in a version apparently representative of what director Kyle Newman originally envisioned, the film isn't even any good.
Facts of the Case
The story is set 6 months before the opening of The Phantom Menace, with Star Wars pandemonium once again beginning to reach fever pitch. For a group of obsessed friends, the 6 month period is far too long to endure, especially given that one of their number, Linus (Chris Marquette, The Education of Charlie Banks), is terminally ill. As a result, Eric (Sam Huntington, Superman Returns), Hutch (Dan Fogler, Good Luck Chuck), Windows (Jay Baruchel, She's out of My League), and Linus go on a road trip to the Skywalker ranch in order to steal a rough cut of The Phantom Menace. On the way they meet an assortment of weird characters, have a perfunctory scrape with the law, and pick up an extra passenger, an old friend from home called Zoe (Kristen Bell,Forgetting Sarah Marshall).
Fanboys essentially boils down to being a very unremarkable and generic road trip picture. This genre of filmmaking is in a tired state, and despite the cute central plotline, Fanboys does little to change that fact. Indeed for anybody not strongly in the Star Wars loop, Fanboys will appear as a truly worthless picture; it takes a dedication and knowledge of all things Lucas for the film to properly work on even a basic comedic level. Some of the references are funny (Star Trek vs. Star Wars is a nice theme to explore), but the PG-13 rating keeps the enterprise overly clean, taking away much of the potential raunchiness and horndog desperation that might have given audiences a few extra laughs. Overall it just isn't a particularly amusing movie, with the few sharp gags that are on display only compounding audience disappointment. Apparently the first draft for the film was turned in over a decade ago, and with the wearisome humor and obvious plotting found within, it wouldn't surprise me if that same script was never once updated during the movie's tenuous production.
The cast is fairly innocuous, doing little wrong but also finding virtually no flair within the material. Sam Huntington is fairly dull as Eric, and his supposedly strained relationship with Linus never feels believable. Sam's entire arc is an unconvincing effort to find some redemption in the eyes of his dying friend, having abandoned the group previously to pursue a proper job and some semblance of a normal life. This entire element of the movie feels unjustified and unwelcome, Fanboys struggling to find any dramatic weight within its disposable brand of geeky nonsense and lowbrow chuckles. Similarly the illness subplot that permeates the entire film feels undercooked and wasted, it offers chances for the picture to find a far deeper and warmer sense of purpose, but the screenplay never seems to get a firm handle on the concept or utilize it effectively.
As Linus, Chris Marquette is bearable but never really convinces as a man with only weeks to live. Dan Fogler does an occasionally cheerful but ultimately subpar Jack Black impression, and Jay Baruchel gives a serviceable turn as the most socially regressive of the group. As a whole this selection of performers never achieves a riotous chemistry, a fact that damages both the banter and emotional heft the film aspires to offer. Kristen Bell is probably the freshest face in the cast, bringing a good comic timing and some much needed personality to proceedings. Her romantic subplot is terribly executed, but overall her ballsy performance makes her the most likable character. Fanboys also boasts a selection of famous supporting figures in the cast including Carrie Fisher, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Ethan Suplee (doing a dire Harry Knowles skit), Will Forte, Kevin Smith, Seth Rogen, Danny Trejo, and Billy Dee Williams amongst various others. Rogen in particular finds some refreshingly goofy laughs playing dual characters and polar opposites, a macho Las Vegas pimp and a whiny Trekkie.
The road trip platform is painfully formulaic and at times fairly illogical, Newman working out the crew's destinations on the basis of mediocre gags. Essentially, "mediocre" is the perfect word to describe Fanboys, it does enough to avoid being labelled a comic travesty but next to nothing beyond that. I appreciate that Newman and his cohorts wanted to celebrate their fandom by creating something new, but ironically their product has turned out to be one of the stalest comedies I've seen all year. I have no doubts that Fanboys has its heart in the right place, but it appears to have totally lost its funny bone. Slapping an extra level of frustration onto the picture is the boring cinematography, Fanboys having evidently been filmed in the most routine and visually unadventurous fashion possible.
The Blu-ray disc doesn't repair matters much, the video presentation of Fanboys lacking in detail and expressive colouring. The picture quality is below average and becomes bogged down in a distasteful dimness, something that is exacerbated by the workmanlike camera work and cinematography on display. Overall this represents a major let down. The audio is more acceptable but hardly revelatory, whilst only a very slight roster of subtitles are made available to viewers. The extra features are more encouraging, and probably more entertaining than the movie itself. The commentary track featured is a great deal of fun and in a selection of short but numerous featurettes the passion of the filmmakers really comes through. It's obvious that despite all the supposed troubles the film endured on its way to the screen, those behind it are intensely proud of and have stayed loyal to the final product. There isn't a vast amount of cinematic know how included here but I had a good time with this extras package, which also includes a surprisingly extensive comic book prequel to the main feature. The movie can also be viewed with an introduction by Newman and one of his colleagues, but it's a brief and fairly muted affair.
I wasn't expecting great things from Fanboys, but I was definitely hoping for something more distinctive and enjoyable than the film is able to provide. It's a lacklustre effort, and one whose backstage problems will always supersede the main attraction in film fan's minds. The Blu-ray release has a cool selection of extra content, but generally poor technical attributes.
A guilty verdict is issued on accounts of the force being depressingly weak
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