Fanboys is a film that’s had a widely reported difficult journey to completion, with The Weinstein Company ordering re-shoots and changes to the story to make it appeal to a wider audience. The film was originally set for release in 2006, and finally saw the light of day in a limited theatrical release in early 2009, after several delays, and it’s finally getting a DVD release in the UK.
Set in the lead up to the release of The Phantom Menace, (i.e. more optimistic times where the Star Wars franchise was less divisive), Fanboys follows the adventures of four Star Wars obsessed friends whose friendship has faltered in the year leading up to the film’s events. When they discover that one of the group is terminally ill, they embark on an ambitious childhood dream of an adventure to break into Skywalker Ranch to watch the The Phantom Menace before its release and whilst they’re still together.
Whilst embarking on their cross country adventure, they encounter a number of interesting characters along the way, including a remarkably agile Harry Knowles, and find themselves in some unusual situations, from antagonising Star Trek fans to a run-in with Lucas’ security team.
Whilst I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, by any means, I do have a lot of fond memories of watching the original trilogy on a monthly basis growing up. Sure, the special editions and the prequels have dampened my enthusiasm for the series somewhat, but I’d never deny my affection for the original trilogy. And maybe it’s because I’m not a huge Star Wars obsessive that this didn’t quite work for me, or maybe it’s because, as a comedy, this is woefully inept.
It’s certainly not a case that I don’t get the references or understand the enthusiasm the characters portrayed in this film shared for the series, as I, too, was extremely excited in anticipation of The Phantom Menace. And I struggle to think of a film before or since that I was that excited about in the run up to release. You don’t need to be a Star Wars obsessive to get all of the references and in-jokes here. There’s little to no subtlety whatsoever, and as you’re bombarding with reference after reference from the get go, it soon becomes tiresome rather than amusing.
The enthusiasm and anticipation of The Phantom Menace was one aspect of the film that’s fairly well portrayed. But it’s a shame that the characters, in general, are so broadly drawn that they’re more irritating than believable. It’s cookie cutter geek fanboy stuff. I have nothing against the majority of the cast either. Jay Baruchel is an affable actor and I’m not a Seth Rogan hater, by any means. Neither of them are the film’s weakest point. In fact, most of the cast do the best with the material here. It’s just a shame that the material is so weak.
The impression I got from this was that someone saw Detroit Rock City and thought, “Why not replace Kisswith Star Wars and we’ve got ourselves a movie! Hell, why not get that Sam Huntington chap on board as well?” Which wouldn’t have necessarily been that bad, had it been anywhere near as funny as the aforementioned film and was a little more cohesive. Instead, it seems satisfied with churning out a series of wacky vignettes loosely connected to the main plot.
Sadly, the humour here is far too broad, relying on tired material, poor in-jokes and cameos to elicit laughs. There are times where this is fairly amusing, but largely the writing is quite poor. I really can’t imagine many people getting a lot out of this and, as such, I would hesitate recommending it to even the most hardcore of Star Wars fans.
There were no extras on the review copy I received or even an option to go to a disc menu, so I’m unable to comment on this aspect of the release (hence the star rating at the bottom is for the film only). However, I understand that the extras include deleted scenes, ‘4 Fanboys & 1 Fangirl’, ‘Star WarsParallel’, ‘The Truth About Fanboys’, ‘The Choreography’, ‘Disturbances in the Force – A Series of Webisodes’, as well as an international trailer.
Fanboysis out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.