George Lucas, here we come
The fanboys have been waiting a long time for "Fanboys." A comedy about a quartet of "Star Wars" geeks hellbent on breaking into George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch in 1998 to get a sneak peek at "Episode I," Kyle Newman's film was finished in early 2007 but then was spirited away by producer Harvey Weinstein to a cutting room somewhere on the dark side of Alderaan.
Snip: out went a cancer subplot. Schwip: In went new scenes shot by a different director, Steve Brill. Aiieee: Up went the roar of outrage from fans of shoestring filmmaking and all things Lucas. A Web campaign and boycott were launched and, against all odds, the Force prevailed. Darth Weinstein stepped down and "Fanboys" comes to the multiplex more or less as originally intended.
So how is it? Genial and potty-mouthed and dumb and sweet - a rudely engaging road comedy with more inside "Star Wars" baseball than a convention hall full of Imperial Grand Moffs. Still, you don't have to know who, say, Nien Nunb is to play along. (Lando Calrissian's monkey-faced copilot in "Return of the Jedi" , in case you were wondering.) If you've watched the "Star Wars" saga anywhere from three to 126 times in its entirety, you're set.
"Fanboys" starts in Ohio, where longtime friends Linus (Chris Marquette, cynical), Windows (Jay Baruchel, dorky), and Hutch (Dan Fogler, loud and abrasive) are adjusting to 20-something adulthood with fitful success. A fourth member of their childhood Jedi band, Eric (Sam Huntington) has joined the Dark Side: he wears a tie and works for his dad (Christopher McDonald) selling used cars.
The news that Linus may not live to see "Ep. 1" opening day in six months is enough to put them in Hutch's van (with obligatory Millennium Falcon interior) en route to the Bay Area, Skywalker Ranch floor plans in hand. Along for the ride is Zoe (Kristen Bell), a fangirl with a full complement of real-world social skills.
The hazards are many and predictable: an evening in jail, a visit to a badass biker bar, a detour to Las Vegas with the requisite misunderstanding of romantic interest from two ladies of the night. At times, "Fanboys" is every rowdy low-budget '80s road movie you've ever seen on Cinemax at 2 in the morning.
What keeps the movie near, if not actually in, hyperdrive is its love of deep-dish geek culture and a gaggle of cameo appearances. Some of the latter are officially Too Good To Be Spoiled (if you're a real fanboy, you probably already know about them), but it's nice to see B-movie bad guy Danny Trejo as a desert shaman, and Seth Rogen shows up in two or three different roles, one of which requires him to wear silly teeth and speak Klingon. The funniest part of "Fanboys" is its acknowledgement of the eternal rivalry between "Star Wars" droolers and "Star Trek" freaks, who it sees as the Crips and Bloods of nerd-dom.
Fold in a few random soundtrack call-outs to R2-D2 and Salacious Crumb (the little screechy guy on Jabba the Hutt's knee) and a delicious final line of dialogue that puts the whole thing in perspective, and "Fanboys" caters to its hermetically sealed audience with crass, knowing wit. The movie's an act of love for and vengeance against a pop visionary who built something great and then loused it up.
Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.