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Overall Rating
2

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad44.44%
Total Crap: 33.33%

2 reviews, 6 user ratings


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Fanboys
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Alderaan Rock City"
1 stars

If you are someone who spends a lot of time on the Internet getting news about upcoming movies, especially those in the sci-fi/fantasy genres, then you have probably heard about the long struggle that “Fanboys” has endured on its way to the big screen. To sum it up very briefly for those of you not in the know, producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, having spent millions of dollars to bring the project, in which a group of “Star Wars” fanatics, after learning that one of their ranks is suffering from terminal cancer, embark on a cross-country trip in order to break into George Lucas’ fabled Skywalker Ranch so that he can see the then-unreleased “The Phantom Menace” before he dies, to the screen, suddenly decided that the final product didn’t work and that radical reconstruction was required in order to salvage it. Ordinarily, this would entail reshoots and reedits and while both of them were certainly done in this case, the changes were so extreme that they went so far to prepare an alternate version of the film in which the entire cancer element was completely removed based on the belief that it was the reason that the story wasn’t working. Once word of this leaked out, the real-life fanboy contingents voiced their outrage and vowed to boycott all future releases from the Weinsteins until the film was restored to its original version. Eventually, the Weinsteins caved and agreed to release the original version but then began shifting the release date around--another sign of a troubled production--and there were rumors that it might bypass a theatrical release entirely and wind up going straight to video like so many recent Weinstein acquisitions.

Well, “Fanboys” is finally hitting theaters--albeit only a handful of them and with an absolute minimum of publicity in what appears to be a classic dump scenario--and as someone who enjoys a good story about a filmmaker who manages to triumph over the big, bad studio goons trying to cluelessly squelch someone’s personal vision, I would love to take this moment to tell you that a fine film has somehow managed to emerge from all of the hassle and that you should do whatever you can to rush out and see it before it disappears from view. The only problem with that scenario is the minor little setback that it isn’t very good after all. It isn’t the all-out disaster that the years of post-production dustups would indicate and I cannot begin to fathom how the cancer-free version could have possibly worked at all. That said, the simple truth of the matter is that while “Fanboys” has an amusing premise, it doesn’t know how to properly exploit it and the result is a film that is nowhere near as funny or incisive as it should have been.

Set in late 1998, a time when Chumbawumba and Zima ruled the land (although I seem to recall that the latter was done by then), the film centers on two childhood friends and “Star Wars“ fanatics, Eric (Sam Huntington) and Linus (Chris Marquette), who have been estranged for the last three years after Eric decided to abandon his dreams of becoming a comic book artist in order to work at his dad’s car dealership. Prodded on by their mutual friends and worshippers at the temple of all things Lucas, the extra-gawky Windows (Jay Baruchel), the extra-obnoxious Hutch (Dan Fogel) and the extra-hot Zoe (Kristen Bell), the two reunite and it is revealed that Linus is suffering from terminal cancer and has maybe three months to live. This is bad enough, of course, but what makes matters even worse is that “The Phantom Menace,” the first new “Star Wars” film in 15 years, isn’t due to hit theaters for another six months. In order to fulfill their friend’s dying wish, the lot of them pack into Hutch’s tricked-out van--a four-wheeled shrine to all things relating to “Star Wars” and Rush--and set off on an adventure-packed and cameo-filled trip to San Francisco in order to sneak in and grab a copy of the film against seemingly insurmountable odds.

It all sounds like a potentially amusing film--sort of a feature-length version of the Original-Trilogy-related riffs that the characters in Kevin Smith’s films regularly spout off at a moments notice--but “Fanboys,” to use an actual fanboy metaphor, never quite makes it off the couch in its parents basement and work as a film that accurately captures the obsessive nature that causes some people to spend their entire lives in the thrall of someone else’s creation at the expense of their own, something along the lines of a geek version of “High Fidelity” with light sabers in place of rare import EPs. Instead, it is content to spend too much time on standard road movie hijinks (do we really need the scenes involving a mistaken trip to a gay bar, a rendezvous with a couple of babes in Vegas who turn out to be hookers or the subplot in which the nerd doesn’t quite realize that the hottie has a crush on him?) and when it does deign to offer up some geek related humor, it is largely restricted to one-off references to other movies, cameo appearances (none of which I will spoil except for one in a bit) and a recurring bit involving our heroes doing battle with a group of equally goofy “Star Trek” fanatics that starts off as being not particularly funny and grows less so every time the film returns to it. Once “Fanboys” finally hits Skywalker Ranch in the last half-hour, things do perk up a little as we get some glimpses of the film’s ersatz vision of Lucas’ fabled playground (I love how the security guards are dressed up like the goons from “THX 1138”) but even here, you get the sense that the script is pulling its punches in order to avoid offending Lucas and causing him to refuse to sign off on the countless depictions of his properties on display here.

That said, there are so many missed opportunities that the whole thing becomes an exercise in frustration. For example, why not have the characters uncover a hidden room in which all of Lucas’ misfires, such as the negatives for “Howard the Duck” and “Radioland Murders” or Gary Kurtz, have been condemned? Also, since it was going to be highly unlikely that Lucas himself was ever going to appear in the film as himself, why not bring someone like Kevin Smith in to play a whacked-out version of the man as a teched-out recluse who is brought back to Earth by his contact with a group of fans who remind him of how many people his creation truly touched over the decades? (At the very least, it would have given Smith a slightly more dignified part to play than the one that he does tackle in his brief and not-very-funny cameo.)

Looking back, I think that part of the problem with “Fanboys” is the fact that the funniest joke in the film is the idea of our heroes going to such Herculean efforts in an attempt to see a film that is, of course, now considered to be one of the greatest disappointments in recent pop-culture history (a fact that the screenplay only briefly addresses in the final line of dialogue). The other part is that unless you are a “Star Wars” obsessive yourself, there really isn’t much of anything here for you to latch on to in terms of identification. As someone who has never been that obsessive over the series (though versed enough in the universe and lore to be able to answer virtually all of the various trivia questions asked throughout), I just never found myself relating to “Fanboys,” its cast of characters or their grand quest. That said, I would suggest that if you are such a fanatic, you should probably add an extra star onto this review. Then again, if the film had been about a quest for a pre-release print of “Buckaroo Banzai vs. the World Crime League,” I might have added an extra star or two to the review myself.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16839&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/06/09 16:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2008 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2008 series, click here.

User Comments

1/13/10 Legomon Nice if you are a Star Wars geek 4 stars
10/14/09 turd furgeson han solo is a bitch 3 stars
5/04/09 caiphn Unfunny and somewhat annoying in parts, suppose it's worth at least seeing once. 2 stars
3/16/09 Brandon Allin I enjoyed it. Highly recommended. 4 stars
2/21/09 Charlie The Ray Park Cameo is the best part of the film. That's sad. 2 stars
2/10/09 Brian I've been hearing about this movie forever. Not surprised to see the one star review. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Feb-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-May-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  06-Feb-2008
  DVD: 19-May-2009




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