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Fanboys (2009)

John Estes/The Weinstein Company

The Force is most certainly not with “Fanboys.” It is a flick made by fans, for fans and about fans of the Star Wars franchise. What the film lacks in quality it makes up for in gimmick, shtick and numerous references to the iconic franchise. Even a committed fan will struggle with this juvenile effort. The filmgoer who enjoys “Fanboys” is probably the same one still defending the creation of Jar Jar Binks on his Facebook profile.

Four friends from the Midwest embark on a cross-country quest to sneak a screening of "The Phantom Menace" circa 1998. Their journey takes them from south Texas to Las Vegas and finally to Skywalker Ranch. Along the way, these four characters meet fellow Star Wars fans, geek king Harry Knowles himself, William Shatner and their arch nemeses – the Trekkies.

The plot requires no explanation, because it isn’t the point. “Fanboys” moves without any effort or strain from scene to scene, with some empty reference to the Star Wars universe. Eric (Sam Huntington) works at a car dealership and has the only promising job of the troupe. His three friends work at a comic book store – most notably Windows (Jay Baruchel), named for his computer prowess. Windows maintains an online relationship with a fellow fan, code-named RogueLeader. Our four friends travel in a black van reminiscent of “The A-Team.” The crew mounted an R2 unit on the van just like an X-Wing.

This is the brand of humor in “Fanboys.” Some of the references are clever. The Weinstein Company's logo comes together with the sound of clashing light sabers. The van doesn’t start and Hutch (Dan Fogler) – like Han Solo in “The Empire Strikes Back” – hits the van and it magically starts. The film is more referential montage than fictional storytelling. It’s these references that matter and not the plot. Director Kyle Newman and screenwriters Ernest Cline and Adam Goldberg drive toward Skywalker Ranch making erratic and arbitrary stops.

At times the comedy is funny, but the story is not well crafted and it is this difference that separates a good comedy from a bad one. Bad comedies recklessly meander from funny scene to funny scene. A well-crafted comedy moves logically through its story and with measured resolve. Films like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Knocked Up” display scenes of character development that happen to be funny. A poorly made comedy strings its scenes together but we learn nothing new. We know everything there is to know about these fanboys in the first few minutes. Take a page out of the Pixar playbook: start with characters first.


Opens on Feb. 6 in the United States.

Directed by Kyle Newman; written by Ernest Cline and Adam F. Goldberg, based on a story by Mr. Cline and Dan Pulick; director of photography, Lukas Ettlin; edited by Seth Flaum; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; production designer, Cory Lorenzen; produced by Dana Brunetti, Kevin Spacey, Matthew Perniciaro and Evan Astrowsky; released by the Weinstein Company. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is rated PG-13.

WITH: Sam Huntington (Eric), Christopher Marquette (Linus), Dan Fogler (Hutch), Jay Baruchel (Windows) and Kristen Bell (Zoe).


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