Fanboys is meant for the dude who’s content to simply stare at an Imperial storm trooper’s empty helmet for 90 minutes. It’s for the two childhood friends who parted ways back in junior high over a dispute about whether Captain James T. Kirk could kick Han Solo’s ass. And it’s for every girl who ever donned a Princess Leia Jabba-palace slave-girl costume, lest her boyfriend refuse her access to the Dianoga under his robe.
So there’s your target audience—Kevin Smith, in other words, who cameos as himself in a film loaded with more “what the . . . ?” guests than an entire season of The Love Boat. For the rest of you, find something—anything—better to do. Fanboys is little more than Star Wars porn about four friends traveling cross-country in 1998 to sneak a peek at a rough cut of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace months before its release. Not exactly The Odyssey, but for fans it’ll do at least until a new Clone Wars airs Friday night on the Cartoon Network.
Every scene here is a money shot punctuated by some obscure line of dialogue meant to serve as a punch line. Every frame is stuffed with a Comic-Con’s worth of Star Wars toys, bedsheets, and T-shirts—enough vintage detritus to keep the faithful engaged when the plot sags and the jokes go limp, which is most of the time. The movie has been on the shelf almost as long as the aging merchandise: Scheduled for release last year, it’s been the long-rumored subject of reshoots. Clearly, there weren’t enough.
Directed by Kyle Newman and credited to at least four screenwriters you’ve never heard of, Fanboys coasts on its affection for a 31-year-old franchise and the bare bones of a plot. Lifelong pals Eric (Sam Huntington), Linus (Chris Marquette), Hutch (Dan Fogler), and Windows (Jay Baruchel) trek from Ohio to California in an ancient van tricked out like the Millennium Falcon. Linus is dying (but never looks like it), while Eric’s about to sell out and run his dad’s used-car franchise—right, the Dark Side. Hutch and Windows are the accessories, comic-store clerks in need of an adventure. If nothing else, they could use the sunlight and exercise.
The jokes, such as they are, consist of little more than Star Wars lines recited out of context—most of them variations on “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” It feels like the filmmakers’ way of saying, “This is a movie for members only.” The dork knights will howl and squeal to the point of dampness at the sight of Ethan Suplee’s karate-kicking version of Ain’t It Cool News kingpin Harry Knowles, who’s actually the mirror opposite of his depiction here. Unfortunate interlopers will offer a WTF shrug and go get laid.
The one genuine bright spot among the performers is Kristen Bell as Windows’s would-be girlfriend, his dream combination of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Janeane Garofalo. She nails it—half-nerd, half-hottie, and altogether tougher than any of the guys in the van. The other cameos are more dispiriting: Seth Rogen appears in two equally humiliating roles, as a pug-nosed, gap-toothed, lisping Star Trek fan and as a pimp; Billy Dee Williams plays a judge named Judge Reinhold; Carrie Fisher appears solely to repeat a brief line of dialogue from Return of the Jedi; Smith and Jason Mewes make a pit stop in a gas station’s men’s room for oral sex; and William Shatner once more plays himself in what’s become a forced march of self-parodies. You’re better off watching The Star Wars Holiday Special on YouTube. At least Bea Arthur sings.