Rating 1

Directed by Kyle Newman

Written by Ernest Cline and Adam F Goldberg, story by Ernest Cline and Dan Pulick

Starring Sam Huntington (Eric), Christopher Marquette (Linus), Kristen Bell (Zoe), Dan Fogler (Hutch), Jay Baruchel (Windows), David Denman (Chaz), Christopher McDonald (Big Chuck), Seth Rogan (Admiral Seasholtz / Roach), Allie Grant (Rogue Leader), Ethan Suplee (Harry Knowles), Danny Trejo (The Chief), Billy Dee Williams (Judge Reinhold) and Carrie Fisher (Doctor), with William Shatner and Kevin Smith

October 1998: Eric and Linus were best buddies at high school, sharing a love of comic books and Star Wars, but in the three years since graduation they have drifted apart. Eric is now working as a car salesman for his father Big Chuck. Following an encounter with Linus at a Halloween party, Eric is told by their mutual friends Hutch and Windows that Linus has cancer. The four of them set out across country in an old van from their small hometown in Ohio, headed for Marin County in California, where they plan to break into the Skywalker Ranch to watch a rough cut of ‘Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace’.


I will start by saying that I am not a fan of ‘Star Wars’. I have only seen two of the films in their entirety, the original one and ‘The Phantom Menace’, neither of which I like, plus parts of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’. As it happens, for reasons I cannot quite recall now, I saw ‘The Phantom Menace’ during its first performance when it arrived over here in July 1999. The auditorium was full and there was a palpable sense of excitement, unlike anything I had experienced previously (or have again) in a movie theatre. When the film was over and the audience were making their way out, the atmosphere was now completely flat and it was obvious that the film had been a major disappointment. I thought it was abysmal, but in any case the fascination with Star Wars and the obsession it generates rather passes me by.

Perhaps if I was a genuine Star Wars fan I would have enjoyed ‘Fanboys’ more, but I don’t think so. I was very much looking forward to watching the film, hoping that it would be funny and affable and fully expecting to enjoy it. I was very disappointed. It barely raised a chuckle and many of the scenes just made me cringe. It really wasn’t very funny at all and much of the time it just seemed leaden and undercooked. A reference to ALF did make me laugh and the insistence of Hutch that only tapes of Rush were to be played in his van during the road trip was humorous and nicely judged. It was amusing to find the judge they were brought before when their van was stopped for speeding and they were discovered to be in possession of a huge bag of peyote was called Judge Reinhold, but these moments were sadly few and far between.

The gestation period of the film during production and editing seems to have become increasingly messy, which might explain why it simply isn’t as funny or engaging as it surely should have been. The Wikipedia entry about the film suggests that it was originally slated for release in August 2007, but this was pushed back to allow for more filming. The release date was pushed back again when apparently reshoots directed by Steven Brill (‘The Mighty Ducks’, ‘Without a Paddle’) took place. One of the changes was to delete the cancer storyline altogether. This resulted in an acrimonious exchange of insults between Brill and online campaigners who wanted the original cut to be reinstated. The film was eventually re-cut by its original director Kyle Newman at short notice and screened at Comic Con in San Diego in July 2008. The film was finally given a proper release in February 2009.

I liked Christopher Marquette in ‘Joan of Arcadia’ and Kristen Bell in ‘Veronica Mars’. They are okay here, as are the other leading actors, but they never really manage to transcend the problems in the material they are working with. Seth Rogan doesn’t raise a laugh, despite his reputation. Even an appearance by William Shatner fails to lift things very much. Ultimately, I didn’t think it was affectionate enough in its lampooning of fans of Star Wars and Star Trek, simply seeming to suggest that all Star Wars fans hate Star Trek fans (which may well be true for all I know) and all Star Trek fans deserve the hatred directed at them (which I am pretty sure is not true).

‘Fanboys’ has a 32% rating at Rotten Tomatoes from 82 reviews, 56 of which are adjudged to be negative. Box Office Mojo records a worldwide box office gross a little under $784,000.

Review posted 28 June 2009


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