Fanboys (2008) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for pervasive crude and sexual content, language and drug content
Running time: 90 min.
Cast: Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, David Denman, Christopher McDonald, Seth Rogen, Danny Trejo, Ethan Suplee
Cameo: Billy Dee Williams, William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Will Forte, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride
Director: Kyle Newman
Screenplay: Ernest Cline, Adam F. Goldberg
Review published February 9, 2011
Set in 1998, the storyline follows a group of twenty-something longtime Ohio friends, struggling with the feeling like they need to move on with life and accomplishment, but still unwilling to give up their geeky immaturity. Sam Huntington (Superman Returns, Sleepover) plays Eric, who is on the verge of taking over his father's successful car dealership, but it's not exactly the course he wanted his life to take. Hutch (Fogler, Balls of Fury) is definitely underachieving by comparison, with big dreams of finally getting around to starting up his auto detailing company, but all he has to show for it is living in his parents garage while hanging out at the comic book store most of the day. Windows (Baruchel, Knocked Up) is the bespectacled shy guy of the group, virginal but sweet, and so wrapped up in his own interests, particularly in meeting up with an online contact that says she can get him a way into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch (in northern California), that he has no idea that their friend Zoe (Bell, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a geek-girl as down for sci-fi as they are, has a bit of a crush on him.
Finally, there is Linus (Marquette, The Invisible), whose receipt of a tragic diagnosis of terminal cancer spurs on the boys (and gal) to fulfill their dream of seeing the next chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Phantom Menace, before it even hits theaters. The quintet head out on a road trip to make sure he sees the film he's been waiting his whole life to see before he dies, and on the long and winding road, they encounter all manner of foibles and crazy characters threatening to shut down their plans along the way.
A derivative hybrid of Kevin Smith pop culture references and Judd Apatow raunch, Fanboys rides its one hook, the unabashed embracing of all things Star Wars, while sticking to the tried-and-true formula developed by others that have come before. If it were actually funny, such derivativeness could be overlooked, but outside of some choice cameo appearances by beloved character actors, not to mention Apatow regulars like Seth Rogen (Kung Fu Panda, Horton Hears a Who) and Craig Robinson (Walk Hard), and Kevin Smith (Live Free or Die Hard) himself (with sidekick Jason Mewes (Bottoms Up) close behind), there just isn't much else going for the film in the laughs department to garner a recommendation to anyone not out to watch anything and everything Star Wars.
But it's hard to dump too much on the creative team behind Fanboys, not only because they aren't really trying to reach very high in terms of originality in a film where people spend their days living through the fantasies crafted by others, but also because reshoots (the movie was deemed as having too many serious moments, as well as too adult to reach what he felt was the target audience, by the studio, The Weinstein Company) held back the film's release date by about two years. It should be noted that the director, Kyle Newman (The Hollow), was not involved in directing the scenes which Harvey Weinstein wanted re-shot. In comedy, timing is everything, so f it all seems stale now, there is a valid reason.
Outside of its Star Wars gimmick, this is standard fare all of the way, mixing predictable coming-of-age with zany hijinks, peppered with routine road trip cameo appearances that pop up nearly every scene. Not only did the script by Ernest Cline and Adam F. Goldberg crib from Kevin Smith mighty hard, but it's essentially the exact same formula Smith employed in his road trip farce, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. One would gather that being a fan of Smith's films is perhaps even more of a prerequisite to enjoying Fanboys than being a Star Wars aficionado. If this were a film that played only at comic book or sci-fi conventions, it would be a hit. But the gags and funny allusions are too niche to please many outside of the eponymous target audience, especially when they aren't clued in on the many in-jokes.
Gags involve the accidental taking of peyote to hallucinogenic effect, being forced to strip for the delight of the burly patrons of a gay bar, potential trysts with hookers, road-trip formula cop car chases and a night in the clink, and other oddities both too overly familiar to laugh at and too farcical to bother taking at face value. No Star Wars fan would endure any of this to see the next chapter in the saga, regardless of how zealous. The boys make this trek without any notion of whether the film they might see on the other end is any good, because they're such unabashed, unapologetic fans that it doesn't matter. I suspect this is exactly the kind of unconditionally adoring audience Fanboys is aiming to reach.
©2011 Vince Leo