I recently had the opportunity to watch Fanboys a movie that I thought was going to seem oddly out of place and time, but probably came at the right time.
The year is 1998, six months before the release of “The Phantom Menace” and four nerds who were primarily into Star Wars have entered their early 20s. One of them has seemingly shunned his friends and his dreams and moved to a little place called reality where he is rather unhappy. The other three still pal around and are mostly hanging out at the comic shop and playing video games. It turns out that one of the three “loser” friends has cancer and will likely die sometime before The Phantom Menace comes out. So, as a way to reconnect, the four of them get in a van and head to Skywalker Ranch in order to procure a working print of Episode I so that their friend can see it before he dies. From there, wackiness ensues.
Even though I’ve said it before, I feel that I should preface this by saying I am not really a fan of Star Wars as a property. I think the first movie is great, but everything since then just starts falling apart for me. But I did grow up watching the movies and collecting the toys and in my head is a large enough amount of information about Star Wars to where I could enjoy the jokes. Before The Phantom Menace came out, I did look forward to seeing the prequel trilogy and could place myself back in late 1998 just enough that I could accept the premise in spite of how that movie turned out.
In spite of the playful Trek-bashing and over-exuberance of Wars, I thought this story was great actually. The plot never took itself too seriously and yet the fact this is all for a guy who’s going to die soon weighs on it just enough to give it some poignancy. The four main fanboys and the fangirl who winds up with them in the end are all well crafted characters each given some great moments. This is the type of story that could have easily lent itself to hacking out some really stereotypical nerdy types, but instead there is some depth to everyone.
While the script is pretty strong, this is a movie that needed strong actors and Fanboys has it. This movie made me hate Superman Returns even more because of how that movie wasted Fanboys lead actor Sam Huntington’s acting chops. The other three fanboys were well-cast, even the Jack Black wannabe was good. Although, the best of all of them is Kristen Bell. In fact, if there’s a place where this movie went wrong, it was not including more of her. And not just because she looks good in the “Slave Leia” outfit (don’t blink or you’ll miss it), but Kristen Bell is full of spunk and sass and I wish they had never canceled Veronica Mars.
The cameos were fun for the most part. Of course William Shatner is always great, but the Carrie Fisher cameo might have been my favorite. I could have done without Kevin Smith. Believe it or not, there’s also an odd deleted scene on the DVD with William Katt.
Other production values are good. Lots of good props and costuming from the Star Wars movies, especially once they get to the ranch. Lots of locations. This movie can’t have had a huge budget, but it never really comes off looking too cheap.
I’ll give this movie the rewatchable walrus although I could see it wearing out its welcome over time.