The emperor—that is, George Lucas—should be most pleased. Fanboys, a sweaty, strenuously overgeeked comedy about Star Wars obsessives (made by an unaffiliated team of filmmakers, but with Lucas’s blessing and original sound effects), is free advertising bordering on a b.j. More pivotally, the movie rolls back the clock to a happier, pre–Jar Jar moment: the autumn of 1998, when expectations were high for the following summer’s The Phantom Menace, even among those not living in a nostalgia bubble.
These twentysomething characters do live in that bubble, however, crashing Halloween parties in full stormtrooper regalia and happily lolling in a smelly universe of video games, comics and Mom’s garage (whoops, “carriage house”). Fanboys can’t bring itself to poke too much fun at its benign heroes, and when the sweet-faced Linus (Marquette) is revealed to have terminal cancer, he and his buddies pile into the R2-topped van of Hutch (Fogler, doing the shouty Jack Black thing) and depart from their Ohio suburb. Their mission: infiltrate Lucas’s Bay Area Skywalker Ranch for an illegal peek at the prequel.
At the risk of incurring some serious Jedi wrath, let’s just say that you’ve seen better road movies, ones that don’t resort to yet another accidental traipse into a gay bar or mistaken-hooker-in–Las Vegas scene. (Vegas, guys?) Cameos by Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher make a certain sense, but casting an actor as the hirsute Web pundit Harry Knowles borders on cringeworthy. “I can hear his beard!” whispers femme geek (and love interest in waiting) Kristen Bell as a docile aide receives Lucas’s orders by phone. The line hints at a more savage comedy about artistic ego, one that couldn’t be made in this galaxy.