With surprisingly little fanfare, and airing whilst Comic-Con 2011 was taking place (when, surely, all good geeks would be away from their TVs), comes the television event of the year, The Padawan Menace, a LEGO Star Wars special that has just graced the Cartoon Network over in the US.
And when I say event, I’m not exaggerating or dealing in extraneous hyperbole. This twenty minute or so slice of animated Star Wars action features a Bantha load of hilarity and memorable moments. It’s an absolute peach! You have to admit, the thought of C-3PO shouting, “Say hello to my metal friends!” as he blasts a Rancor, has your curiosity piqued.
Right from the off, The Padawan Menace is a gag fest that puts the Star Wars specials from Robot Chicken and its lesser cousin, Family Guy, to shame. Star of the piece is Yoda, who delivers his usual Jedi catchphrases but choosing to add “Peace out!” or “Tired of being right all the time, I am” at the end of each ponderous statement. Yoda as a comical persona works extremely well and his characterisation is an utter delight.
The little green one is babysitting some Padawans when he puts them on a tour of the Galactic Senate with everyone’s favourite droids C-3PO and R2-D2. This leads to an on-the-nose commentary about the, and I’m quoting here, “blah blah blah” nature of the Senate scenes (including delegates from the planet Beaurocrotis).
After these moments there’s a parade of the greatest hits, if you like, of the Star Wars galaxy, such as the Cantina, featuring a hilarious Threepio (voiced by Anthony Daniels), Hoth (complete with ticklesome gag featuring Golden Rod unable to understand the LEGO instruction manual for his ship) and Jabba’s Palace, where the droids battle against one another.
Various characters from throughout the saga also pop up, like Obi-Wan, Anakin and Darth Vader himself. This last appearance will, at first, have fans asking, “What the hell is he doing here? This is prequel territory!” But the makers behind this special are clever, oh so clever. Cue an appearance from George Lucas in brick form informing the dark helmeted one that he’s not in the script, resulting in an unhappy Darth.
Technically, The Padawan Menace is spectacular and one wishes that this could have been released theatrically. It’s a joy to the eye, matching the laughs for the brain and heart in every frame. There’s also, as you would imagine, a plethora of Easter eggs and in-gags to look out for such as the Millennium Falcon, Slave-1, numerous advertising billboards and various other iconic Star Wars characters and imagery. It’s clearly made with love and an eye on the fans.
Ultimately, it’s the humour that makes this special such a winner, something devoid in Lucasfilm’s The Star Wars Holiday Special (though it’s unintentionally funny). The range of laughs will please the young (Threepio throwing up into Artoo), the hip (there’s a TV show called Keeping up with the Calrissians) and the old (use of the actual Star Wars “Name Generator”). Without a shadow of a doubt, The Padawan Menace is one of the greatest additions to the saga and one sincerely hopes that this LEGO Star Wars special is not a one-off, but the start of a series.
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