For the die-hard fanboy out there, the arduous journey of Fanboys to the theaters can almost parallel the yearning of the characters in the film to see Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The film was shot in 2006 and was supposed to be released umpteen times over the past two years – with reshoots and alternate takes and fan protests over those alternate takes – but, finally, the wait is over. So, is it worth the wait after all this time? Unlike what some thought of Episode I… YES, it really is.
The beautiful thing about this movie is that while it is surely geared towards the most hardcore of fanboys, you don’t need a Ph. D in the “Holy Trilogy” (as Kevin Smith calls it… who does appear as well) to get a kick out of this little flick, although it surely does help. It’s really a road-trip movie, and a damn good one at that, which takes a group of friends and loyal Star Wars geeks (Dan Fogler, Sam Huntington, Jay Baruchel and Chris Marquette) across the country to try and see Episode I before it hits the theaters. What you don’t get from the trailer is that one of the friends, Linus (Marquette) is in fact dying of cancer and the doctors say he most likely won’t be alive when Episode I hits theaters. It was this aspect that apparently the brass at The Weinstein Co. tried to cut out of the film, for whatever reason, which sparked massive blowback within the fanboy community – to the point where they were igniting nationwide protests of The Weinstein Co.’s film Superhero Movie. Actually, I myself wasn’t even sure which version I was going to see at the screening, but thankfully, the original version is intact and hilariously awesome.
Like any great road movie, it’s more about the journey than the destination and all that stuff, and for a succinct 90-minute film, they really do give us a lot about these characters on this journey to identify with. We have Eric (Huntington) who is the “guy who grew up” and has become distant from his fellow nerds after joining the “real world” and working at his dad’s (Christopher McDonald… in the first of MANY great cameos) car dealership. He shows up at their annual Halloween party, trying to get back in touch with the guys, when he sees they haven’t changed much at all: still wearing the same Star Wars-themed costumes they always wear, and still scraping by with menial jobs. Hutch (Fogler) still lives in his mother’s garage (or “carriage house” as he calls it) and works at a comic book shop with Windows (Jay Baruchel) and the geeky-but-cute Zoe (Kristen Bell). When Eric finds out that Linus (Marquette) – who still holds much resentment against Eric for bailing on their plan to become comic book artists – is stricken with cancer, and might not make it to see Episode I, he gets the gang together for the proverbial road trip they’ll never forget.
One of the big selling points of this movie is the insane amount of cameos that puts almost any cameo-laden movie I’ve seen to shame. What’s also great about it is they have cameos that reach out to both the real fanboys and just people who like damn-funny actors. Seth Rogen appears in THREE roles here, as a die-hard Trekkie (who you see in the original trailer and who I honestly didn’t recognize until I saw the film), a redneck pimp/fanboy named Roach and as a costumed alien as well. I guess he really doesn’t have a “cameo” here with three roles, but they’re all fairly small so I guess he’s the top dog of the cameos. We also get cameos from the likes of Craig Robinson as a Skywalker Ranch security guard, Danny McBride as the head Skywalker Ranch security guard, Danny Trejo as The Chief, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes as themselves, in a hilarious scene with Zak Knutson (“Sexy Stud” from Clerks II), Will Forte as another Skywalker Ranch security guard, Jamie King (who actually married Fanboys director Kyle Newman) as a Vegas prostitute and Ethan Suplee as Harry Knowles. THEN we get another batch of cameos from actual Star Wars alumni like Billy Dee Williams as “Judge Reinhold,” Ray Park (Darth Maul from Episode I and Toad from X-Men) as another Skywalker Ranch security guard (they keep a tight ship…), Carrie Fisher as a doctor and, the grand-daddy of them all, in a category all by himself, Star Trek legend William Shatner, playing himself. What’s so great about most of these cameos is that a lot of these guys weren’t even really that big when this was shooting in 2006 and now people like Rogen, Robinson, McBride and even the main stars like Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Chris Marquette and Sam Huntington have really come into their own while this movie was being delayed and delayed.
It really is a testament to director Kyle Newman and his eye for talent before there was a big name attached to it. It’s also a testament to Newman because he juggles SO many talented actors at the same time it’s uncanny and they all deliver smashing performances. Fogler is outlandishly hilarious as Hutch, the guy who still tries to use the Jedi Mind Trick on people to this day, Baruchel brings out his inner nerd wonderfully as Windows, a geek who tries to hook up with a “chick” on the Internet (a sub-plot with a hilarious payoff) and Huntington and Marquette are in top form as Eric and Linus, two former geek friends who chose different paths and come together for this last mission, as it were. I’ve honestly been fans of all these main four actors for awhile now (Huntington since Detroit Rock City, Marquette since The Girl Next Door, Baruchel since Million Dollar Baby and Fogler since Balls of Fury) and its great to see them all take the lead together here. I also rather enjoyed Kristen Bell as Zoe, the hot, spunky fangirl who proves that she can even look hot with jet-black hair and funky clothes (wait ‘till you see what she wears at the end, though…).
The only real problem I had with the film was that certain parts of Ernest Cline and Adam F. Goldberg’s script that felt pretty rushed. There are certain conflicts that occur throughout the road trip (one of which has the guys in jail, which causes Kristen Bell’s Zoe to come bail them out and join the trip), that seem to be resolved rather quickly. My best guess would be that some things had to be trimmed in order to account for the massive cameo ensemble, and for character development, but these zippy little conflicts weren’t too much of a bother, and some were even pretty funny, like the scene at the end of the trailer where they’re in the garbage room at Skywalker Ranch. Cline and Goldberg do create quite a winning tale here with tons of humor and geekdom trivia and a surprising amount of heart as well, without making it seem corny at all. These are very real characters they created and anyone that’s been to a Comic-Con can vouch for the authenticity of these types of fans portrayed in the movie. Ultimately, though, what’s so cool about this movie is that, for once, the fanboys are the heroes, on a quest that anyone who’s waited in line for a Star Wars movie could only dream of.
While many movies claim to be “for the fans,” Fanboys is one of the only films that can make that claim with authenticity. Fanboys is absolutely essential viewing for any Star Wars fan with possibly the best cameo ensemble in years. What’s sad is after all this waiting, the film will only be released in eight cities (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle and Austin, TX) this weekend, so to the fanboys in those cities, I put this to you: go see Fanboys in droves! The Weinstein Co. has said they will release the film wider based on this limited engagement, so bring all your friends and try to get this film to spread all over the country, like it deserves to be seen. Once you all see it, I’m sure you’ll agree that The Force IS strong with this one! Fanboys is absolute hilarity!