PLOT: It is 1998, and after learning that one of his old friends is sick, a young man rallies his cronies on an impossible mission… break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a copy of THE PHANTOM MENACE. Once he convinces his friends to take the chance, they are off on a road trip filled with gay bars, hookers, and Harry Knowles. But it is all thanks to a sort of “deep throat” they find along the way, who helps lead them on the right path.
It is clear that Kyle Newman loves STAR WARS. And it would also be fair to say that along with many others, the release of STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE would be a monumental event. Thus, FANBOYS offers a glimpse of how this franchise shaped the young minds of many, and how desperately they held on to The Force. And that is the beauty of Fanboys… it is that last bit of hope and excitement that many felt as they waited for Episode One. It was a religious experience for some, as many of them waited in line for days just to be the first to witness Jar Jar Binks. Okay, so at the time, we had no idea how vile that creature would be, but no matter what you thought of the film, that period in history will forever be remembered as a cinematic event. So imagine the idea of somebody who may not make it to see this rebirth, and think about what desperate tactics they would take to get a chance to be a part of it. And with that, you have Fanboys.
I admit, there are quite a few movie goers out there that will have very little understanding why this is so important. But really, Menace is only a part of the story. What this is about is friendship and how something shared can make it stronger. Don’t get me wrong, this is a comedy and you won’t find many TERMS OF ENDEARMENT moments scattered about. And much of the comedy is familiar territory for a road picture, which is basically what this is. You have a misunderstanding at a gay bar and confusion as to whether or not you just picked up a hooker. The Star Wars van that is driven feels very similar to something out of THE CANNONBALL RUN or SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. And frankly, while I didn’t find the humor necessarily laugh out loud funny all the time, I did find that I really cared about what was going on. I absolutely wanted to see these kids make it to Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.
The story revolves around five friends played by Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel and Kristen Bell. Eric (Huntington) has become a sort of outcast to his friends by taking on a job at his father’s automobile dealership. Eric’s father, Big Chuck (Christopher McDonald), has big plans for his son, which includes leaving the family business to him. But all this changes when he finds out that his old buddy Linus (Marquette) is dying. Yeah, I know it sounds kinda syrupy, but it really isn’t. The whole cancer aspect is actually very subtle which works in the films favor. All of this leads to a dying wish… a chance to see the new Star Wars film, you know, The Phantom Menace. So this group of friends take off with a wild notion to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a print of the film. Do they succeed? Well, you’ll have to see it to find out. But truthfully, never mind the George Lucas aspect, this is their story and all that they learn about each other in the process.
So the question is, will folks who are not huge fans of the Star Wars franchise and who would never wait in line for a movie care? Maybe not. But I remember how big of a deal this was, and I also remember trying to convince myself that maybe, just maybe, The Phantom Menace really was great. And that brings me to the ending of Fanboys… Don’t worry, no spoilers here, but I really loved the way this plays out. It was funny and sweet and almost brought a tear to my eye. It feels like the little movie that could, as we all know the stories of how the studio wanted to change the film. But ultimately, this is the film that the filmmakers wanted to make. And yes, if this had just been some morons looking to break in and check out the movie, I really can’t imagine it working.
Another fun facet is the menagerie of cameos. Seriously, you’ve got Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, Seth Rogen (in three roles), Kevin Smith, Jaime King, Pell James, William Shatner and many, many more. Easily, my favorite was Ms. Fisher, aka Princess Leia. There is something about this woman that I really enjoy. She’s funny and she always brings a little something extra with every role she plays. Hey, I still have a crush on her from THE BLUES BROTHERS. And while a bunch of clever cameos and a talented cast is not going to change the way we look at motion pictures, it will however bring a sense of nostalgia to everyone who remembers the first time they saw Phantom Menace. Fanboys is not groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to be, what it needs to be is a loving tribute to a hopeful time. Never mind about Jar Jar Binks, for me, Fanboys is Fan-tastic. My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO