Movie Review: Fanboys
By Josh Spiegel
February 22, 2009
So much struggling and for so little. I'm almost sorry to have to say that Fanboys, the movie that some thought would never be released, is just not that funny. I did laugh at this movie, more than I thought I would, actually, but it will end up being more memorable for its long and hard battle to get to mainstream movie theaters than for its actual content. In short, Fanboys is a 90-minute mess, but the actors are so charming and likable, and the cameos are so plentiful and random, it's almost worth giving a try.
First, a bit of history for the unaware. Fanboys, a road-trip comedy set in late 1998 about four Star Wars geeks trying to break into George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch to see an early version of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, was meant to be released on August 17th...of 2007. Once reshoots were scheduled, the release was put back to April of 2008. However, by that time, news had broken that the film's original director, Kyle Newman, was taken off the project and replaced by Steven Brill (the great auteur behind Little Nicky and Without a Paddle); what's more, the driving force of the road trip - one of the geeks had cancer and would be dead before the official release of Episode I - was being taken out. Of course, a storm of fanboy and fangirl anger arose and, eventually, Brill was taken off and Newman came back in to finish the project. Still, The Weinstein Company, the distributor, waited until February of 2009 to show the movie, and only in a few major markets.
After having seen Fanboys, the question I've got is this: why? Why would the Weinsteins, Harvey and Bob, wait so long to release this movie? No, it's no great shakes, but still, with a cast of familiar actors (Kristen Bell and Jay Baruchel, both regulars of Judd Apatow comedies, are two of the geeks) and enough Star Wars references in pop culture, why didn't the Weinsteins just release this movie last year, and not hide it? Of course, Fanboys won't be raking in much money, thanks in part to that strange releasing strategy, and thanks in part to the complete lack of advertising (unless you happen to have seen some ads for it on TV, in which case you are a rare and lucky person).
Unfortunately, with the extended amount of post-production, it's obvious that the current iteration of Fanboys is a far truer definition of the concept of a film designed by committee than most recent projects. The storyline about Linus, the geek played by Christopher Marquette, having cancer remains, and is somewhat of a driving force, but Linus never acts or appears sick, and the illness itself is almost never mentioned. Once the character passes on at the end, no one seems to act as if he's gone forever, but as if he's just gone to the bathroom and will be back soon. Another subplot with Eric (Sam Huntington), the sole geek who's trying to become a normal, non-geeky, car salesman but really wants to be a comic-book artist, is rarely talked about, except during a strange and psychedelic dream/drug sequence.
Yes, I know what you're saying. "Why is there a drug sequence?" Well, think of it this way: if there wasn't, would we have the random cameo by Danny Trejo? I mean, the man has to eat, and if Robert Rodriguez doesn't start making more movies, Trejo will be on the street. His cameo appearance is one of many and one of the least memorable. The largest role by one of the big cameo stars is given to Seth Rogen, who actually plays three different characters, two of whom fight each other at one point. Even though Rogen's obviously having a lot of fun (especially as a die-hard Star Trek geek), you have to wonder if he owed someone on the film some money for showing up so often. Other big cameos come from Ethan Suplee (playing Ain't It Cool News founder Harry Knowles), William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Will Forte, Danny McBride, Kevin Smith, and Jason Mewes (the last two are in the same scene, which is quite funny even if it feels completely out of place).
Yes, the cast is large and filled with lots of funny and/or self-aware people (how else could Lando Calrissian himself agree to play a police official named Judge Reinhold?), and it's basically because of their hard work to make the weak script, by Ernest Cline, Dan Pulick, and Adam F. Goldberg, seem funnier than it is that Fanboys is enjoyable and bearable at the same time. Also, one of the themes that keeps trying to make itself heard - the pure love people have for not just Star Wars but a true movie going experience - is strong enough that I couldn't help but want these geeks, from Linus and Eric to Dan Fogler's Hutch and Baruchel's Windows, to get to Skywalker Ranch, to get to see the movie. Despite this movie's messy structure, wanting these characters to reach their goal is a far better outcome than the filmmakers could have imagined.
Fanboys isn't a great movie, but let's be honest: if you've gotten this far in the review, you probably know if you want to see it. Hell, you could probably answer the many Star Wars trivia questions posed in the film without any hesitation, and name how many references and quotes are thrown around. For the rest of us (or at least those of us who aren't as quick to answer those questions), let's just say that Fanboys is a funny if predictable movie featuring actors who do their best to elevate the material, even when they're not arguing if Luke always had a thing for Leia (the answer there is that he sure did, until he found out they were related, of course).