Of all the various assortments of geeks out there, few as diehard as 'Star Wars' fans. I'd know, as I'm one of 'em, and I can say without second breath, it's one hell of an expensive love. Mel Brooks got it right in 'Spaceballs,' with Yogurt going on about the "merchandising, merchandising, merchandising." Though you won't find any horrific character tattoos or permanent markings on my body (lets just say I'm not a fan of needles), if you found a way to look into my heart, mind, and soul, you'd find a creature brimming with love for the saga.
So, imagine how excited I was when I learned a film was coming involving the plot to steal a print of 'Episode I.' 'Fanboys" promised to take me back to the days of 1999, when the 'Star Wars' saga was about to return to the silver screen after a 16 year break between installments. Back to a time when the future was full of promise, toy store shelves were full of new Star Wars collectibles, and sidewalks were full of grown men camping out in front of theaters days and weeks ahead of the first 'Phantom Menace' screenings. You know, back to the time before Jar-Jar ruined everything (according to some).
Now, imagine how disappointed I was when 'Fanboys,' teased in every Weinstein DVD, fell off the map completely, as if it were fleeing from Imperials, earning the Weinsteins the well deserved Darth monicker from fans. Like the carrot dangled in front of a horse, or the twinkie in front of the fat kid, 'Fanboys' was dangled in front of me for over two years. With such a build up, was there any chance the film could have lived up to my hopes and expectations?
'Fanboys' follows a group of hardcore Star Wars junkies who plan a last hurrah for their dying friend: a road trip from Ohio to California, to steal a print of 'Episode I' before it hits theaters. Eric (Sam Huntington as the fan whose interests have moved away from the Force), Hutch (Dan Fogler as the husky rabid fan-nerd), Windows (Jay Baruchel as the thick glasses sporting computer geek), Linus (Chris Marquette, the fan dying to see 'Episode I,' literally), and Zoe (Kristen Bell, the nerdy dream girl) encounter the typical setbacks of a nerdy buddy road trip tale, from aggressive Trekkies (the one creature lower than a 'Star Wars' fan. That's right Trekkies, suck it.), to fanboy pimps and a gay bar full of trouble. Will they succeed in the quest for their holy grail?
Remember how everyone and their mother was angry at 'Episode I,' claiming even they could have written a better tale than the one that hit the screen? The unfulfilled hopes and dreams of an entire community? I finally know how they felt. I never found anything wrong with 'The Phantom Menace,' save for the terrible lines given to Jar-Jar, and the annoying child acting of Jake Lloyd, emasculating the most menacing force the galaxy ever knew in a way only outdone by Hayden Christiansen three years later. I love 'Episode I' for what it is, rather than hating it for what it isn't. 'Fanboys' on the other hand is a film that gave me reason to dislike it for both what it is, and what it isn't.
Sure, the fan in me enjoyed the opening, as any real 'Star Wars' gag film needs the opening text, crawl, and downwards pan from the stars. From there, the fan in me wanted to cry foul constantly, from spotting toys in Linus' bedroom that wouldn't be out for another six years, to the simple fact that the film supposedly takes place in November, yet no part of the film looks cold or dreary, and the climate is only referred to as cold.
The film snob part of me wanted to lift my chin so high my eyes wouldn't see the screen. The jokes are just flat lame, forced, and unfunny. The cameos are flat awful, and pull one away from the film, while the "cameos" (real life people like Harry Knowles portrayed by actors) were even worse. The story is predictable and overly convenient at times.
The only redeeming value in this film is its portrayal of those who have such an extreme passion that it dominates their thoughts and very lives. There are tons of nods to the greatest film trilogy ever made, as well as countless lines from the films seamlessly spouted by the characters. Sadly, the ending of the film left me wondering if those making the film truly had a love for the entire story.
After spending an hour and a half with 'Fanboys,' I felt obligated to immediately pop in 'Episode I' for some writing atmosphere. Perhaps I wanted to actually watch a film that, after years of hopes and expectations, didn't utterly disappoint me. Ten years after the fact, I can finally feel all your pain, though the source of my agony has a different, much more forgettable name.
'Fanboys' drops on Blu-ray exclusively in Canada (damn scruffy nerf herders!), from Alliance. Yes, that Alliance. Thankfully, unlike some of their more infamous releases, 'Fanboys' is in 1080p (not i), is framed in the natural aspect ratio (1.85:1), and doesn't outright suck.
The AVC MPEG-4 encode can only do so much with the film that cost less than 1/100th of what 'Episode I' made. Detail is often lacking. Sure, I enjoyed seeing curly hair atop Fogler's head actually being three dimensional, with most shots sporting one or two (or two thousand) stray hairs popping out. Sadly, there were many shots in which his hair looked flat and one dimensional that I most certainly didn't enjoy.
Colors don't pop, save for the occasional bright primary, while skin tones can be overblown at times. Blacks can crush, and shadow delineation is an utter joke, akin to the love scenes found in 'Episode II.' Aliasing pops up from time to time, as does the random dull and gritty shot. Special effects stand out like a sore thumb. This transfer is somewhat fitting of this film, really. A flat, one dimensional picture for a flat, one dimensional movie.
The audio for 'Fanboys' defaults to a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track, while a lossless (DTS-HD Master Audio) mix can be selected from the menu. To be honest, the audio options are the only thing that can be selected from the menu.
The film has a fairly front heavy feel, with some forced (more like Force Choked) ambiance and soundtrack bleed at the rear end of the sound field. There are a few motion effects, all involving vehicular motion, that weren't too bad, but were a bit awkward sounding. Minor little noises can be heard at times, but only if the soundtrack isn't a dominant factor in a scene, as the music has a tendency to envelope the noises around it. This music can also overpower dialogue at times, though this is no difficult achievement, as at times even a slight rustling in your home can overpower the film, no matter the volume level your receiver is set at. The bass level gets aggressive (and I mean aggressive) during one scene (a peyote induced hallucination), though for the rest of the film the bass is somewhat tame and restrained. While not as disappointing as the video qualities, this audio mix didn't make any fans in this household.
Canadians, Alliance hasn't forgotten about you. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is included, as well.
Like many other Alliance releases, there are no extras to be found. At all. Nothing. As dull as the film was, I would have liked to have had a commentary available, to see if the filmmakers loved this movie as much as they did the movies that inspired it.
Inspiration is a funny thing. 'Fanboys' was inspired by another movie, yet showed no inspiration whatsoever. The audio and video qualities on this disc showed no spark, either. The only inspiration to be found was Alliance's inspiration: money, to cash in on the American audience hungry to see this film, yet not willing to take "good enough" and buy the DVD. I was inspired, as well. To not watch this film again.