Like Crossing Over from a few weeks ago Fanboys is another film that’s been gathering dust in the Weinstein vault for the last couple of years. Originally timed to be released on the 30th anniversary of Star Wars the movie has been the subject of chatter on the internet regarding editorial interference from the Weinstein Company—they wanted an entire storyline removed—and whether or not the film would ever be released at all.
This week marks its unveiling in Canada (it has already been seen in the US) and after seeing it I have to wonder what all the fuss was about. Fanboys is a perfectly cordial little movie that probably should have gone straight to DVD but, I imagine, finally earned its big screen release because of the involvement of several of its stars who have gone from unknowns to hot properties since the film was shot.
The story is simple. Set in 1999 four childhood friends who bonded over Star Wars concoct a plan to drive from Ohio to Marin County, California to storm George Lucas’s ranch and get an advance look at Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Their plan isn’t just a lark, however. This will likely be Eric’s (Sam Huntington) last hurrah before he leaves nerddom behind to take over his father’s used car empire and Linus (Chris Marquette) has been diagnosed with cancer and may not live to see the film‘s official opening. For the other members of this group—Hutch and Windows (Dan Fogler and Jay Baruchel)—the trip is a coming of age. At the beginning of the journey they are still immature guys who meet girls in Jedi chat rooms, but by the end you just have the feeling their lives will have been transformed. Joining them is Zoe (Kristen Bell), a girl-geek who not only looks great in Princess Leia’s metal bikini but also provides some much needed grounding for the boys.
Fanboys has its moments. A battle between the Lucas hounds and their mortal enemies, Star Trek fans—the boys call them Kirk loving Spock suckers—is laugh out loud funny. It’s also lots of fun to see Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Ethan Suplee, Kristen Bell and Jay Baruchel before they were famous and even cooler to play spot the cameos—look for geek gods Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner and Kevin Smith—but the film is more uneven than Yoda’s crazy mixed up syntax. It plays more like a series of sketches than a full length movie.
If you enjoy the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons then you’ll likely find a warm spot in your heart for Fanboy’s characters, but as geekily likeable as they may be they are little more than stereotypes. Windows, of course, is “female kryptonite” and Hutch is an over-the-top Rush fan and that’s about the extent of the character development. Maybe it’s just as well because when the movie tries to stretch and introduce some poignancy into the mix it really falls flat. A clumsy metaphor comparing Eric’s car dealer dad and Darth Vader is undeveloped and unnecessary and Linus’s cancer is treated more like a plot device than a real threat to his life.
Fanboys is an occasionally funny coming-of-age story that might be best left until the DVD release.