Long, long ago in a Hollywood far, far away, Fanboys began a slow, strange trip into theaters. This love letter to Star Wars fandom was written in 1998 by a diehard Star Wars devotee as he awaited the release of the most anticipated film in movie history, Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Several years passed before the script was picked up, shot, and set for release. But that was back in the summer of 2007just the beginning of a behind-the-scenes saga that's now legendary among film geeks and Star Wars fans.
Fanboys is about four Star Wars obsessed buddies road-tripping to California to steal a print of the Star Wars prequel so their dying friend, Linus, can see it before its release. He's only been given two to three months to live in his fight against cancer. The film's heartfriends bonding over a common love in the face of deathis strong with the force. And its many tips of the hat to Star Wars lore and fandom are a great deal of fun for the initiated. If you know what Ray Park looks like (or even who Ray Park is), recognize the name Harry Knowles, or have ever seen THX 1138, then you'll get a big kick out of the movie.
As a child of 1977 with more Star Wars toys in his office than I'd like to admit, I had a blast. Well, with the Star Wars stuff at least. Not all is well with this movieeven for a geek like me. And almost all of the negatives and flaws can be traced back to the battle that has stymied the release since 2007.
When Fanboys first screened for industry folk in 2007, it gained a lot of notice. George Lucas loved it (and even let the filmmakers use sound effects from his movies), Internet anticipation blew up like a thermal detonator, and director Kyle Newman was given extra money by The Weinstein Company to shoot more ambitious scenes. But that's when trouble seemed to creep in. Movie insiders reported that reshoots were shot by a different director and that Weinstein wanted the cancer plot removed in exchange for more typical road-trip movie humor (i.e., raunchy and vulgar sex jokes). Star Wars fans were angrier than a Tusken Raider and began an online protest. In the end, two versions of Fanboys were tested with audiences. The winner? The one with the cancer plotline. Director Newman and the original creative team were brought back in by Weinstein to restore the movie to the original visionbut were given only 36 hours to do it.
Thankfully, Fanboys has been released with the cancer plot intact (even though all the tinkering left the movie poorly edited and awkward). The plot about a dying guy's buddies trying to give him a "Death Star moment" is really the only thing that gives the movie heart, amps up the buddy-bonding stuff, and even lends the movie some poignancy.
Unfortunately, the movie's raunchy side also remains. In fact, Fanboys is really just a mash-up of Road Trip, any recent National Lampoon movie, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back from director Kevin Smith (who makes a cameo in Fanboys). In fact, most of the cruder stuff is directly lifted from other movies. Not only is this stuff recycled and not very funny, but it's obvious these scenes don't fit the original vision of the movie. How does a Star Wars send-uplet alone one about a dying young manend up with crude hijinks involving gay bars, prostitutes, and pimps?