Frosty Sneaks Into the First Test Screening of ‘Fanboys’

     August 17, 2006

Perhaps this should have been two articles. The first being on me and Star Wars, the second on the film Fanboys. But since the film caused me to think about everything all at once, I thought they should go together….

I love living in Los Angeles. Not only do we have all the best movie theaters, sorry Austin, but almost every time I go to a theater someone is standing outside handing out free passes to a future movie.

Most of the time I don’t want to see what they are offering as it always seems that it is a romantic comedy, or some piece of shit horror film. But once in awhile it’s something that I care about, like the other day when a gentleman asked me if I wanted to see a film called Fanboys, and he told me it had to do with Star Wars. I literally had to contain myself from laughing, as not only was this a film that I was familiar with as I interviewed the director Kyle Newman a few months back, but this was actually a film that I really wanted to see.

Pardon me for a moment, I need to come out of the geek closet.

As far back as I can remember I have been a Star Wars fan, just like a lot of you. I have collected the toys, I have debated the movies, and I have been to sci-fi conventions. For the large majority of my life Star Wars has been with me, almost like Sam to Frodo, the films have had my back.

That is, until recently.

For whatever reason, maybe its maturity, maybe it’s the prequels, maybe I just finally found more to life than constantly talking about some movies that came out decades ago. The point is, over the last few years I have finally broken up with my long-time partner Star Wars, and to be honest, I am still in the recovery stage.

It is really weird to be so into something for so long and then out of the blue, to have fallen out of love. Because that is what it kind of feels like, almost like I have fallen out of love. I still respect the films, and I still am curious about this new TV show, but it just doesn’t consume me like it did in the past. And I am kind of sad to say this, I am happy that it is finally over. I almost feel like what a recovering heroin addict must feel like when they have finally gotten over the hump. Yeah I know that is kind of a stretch, but trust me, if you knew how much I was into Star Wars, the analogy is not so far off.

So over the last year or two I have been dealing with my lack of interest in Star Wars and then out of the blue this film called Fanboys comes along.

The basic premise is, imagine it is the year 1998 and you are one year away from Episode One. You and your friends are recently out of High School and are still really into Star Wars, except for one friend who separated from the group and grew up and took some responsibility, getting a job at his family’s car dealership. While he moved on, all the rest stayed the same, playing video games, still living at home, and of course, still debating all things Star Wars.

Anyway for some reason they all end up at the same party and see each other for the first time in years. Without going into spoiler territory, which I fucking hate when people do, it ends up that one of the friends is dying from cancer and the group reforms to go across the country to get their friend into Lucas Ranch to see Episode One before he dies. So as you can tell, while the film really has a lot to do with Star Wars, it also tackles real things like friendship, growing up, and life.

Remember this was that time when the original films were all anyone had, a time when the franchise was still pure and the toys had all come back and it was really cool to be into the films (at least for me and my friends). Ordinary people used to wear the vintage t-shirts and even if you were a nerd about it, it was kind of socially acceptable.

Quite simply, Fanboys is a film that Kevin Smith wishes he would have made. The film has a lot of the same elements as a Kevin Smith movie except Fanboys has one major advantage, it has been directed. (Sorry Kevin, but while I dig your dialogue, as a director I have never been impressed). From the camera work to the fleshed out three-dimensional characters, I bought into the world of Fanboys and the actors who portrayed them.

And while I would love to do reviews as good as Beaks does them….

Things that I dug about the film.

The performances by the actors. Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Sam Huntington and Kristen Bell. While some are names that you know, like Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), all of them are people that once you see their picture, you realize you have seen them in a lot of things before. But even if you haven’t, all five of them have this great chemistry and really seem like they have been friends for years. The other thing that I found was how the characters they portrayed reminded me of certain friends in real life. Anytime you see someone acting like a friend onscreen, your relationship is that much closer with the film. Last let me say that Kristen Bell does something in the film that every guy is going to really enjoy. While I have never watched Veronica Mars, I might start this season.

The cameos. While I don’t want to spoil all of the people who appear in the movie, as seeing them pop up during the second half is quite fun, a scene that made my friends and I laugh out loud featured an appearance by the one and only Harry Knowles, the Ain’t it Cool News master chief. Mind you, this was not the real Harry in the film, but an actor playing him. In the movie Harry plays the man who is responsible for getting the plans of Lucas Ranch into the hands of our hero’s. But instead of an easy hand off, let’s just say Harry has to kick some ass first. If you have ever met Harry, trust me, this is the most accurate portrayal of a real person I have ever seen in cinema history. I just wish the film had him using his nunchucks, cause as we all know, Harry has those with him at all times. [/sarcasm]

The other person who is absolutely perfect in the film and plays a few characters is the brilliant Seth Rogen. One thing that has to be said about Fanboys is this is the first movie to use Seth as a Will Farrell type guest star. Seth gives himself over to the roles, disappearing in makeup as he plays a Star Trek fanboy. One of his other characters loves Star Wars, but to tell you what he plays would ruin some good surprises.

The thing that I really think carries the film is how all the characters feel real. Each person has been fleshed out just enough that even though the film is only a bit over an hour and a half, I knew each person like he was my friend. Perhaps this is due to all of my real life friends who have acted, or still act like the people I saw on the screen. Whatever the reason, I thought it worked.

Finally the music.

One of the main characters only listens to Rush and the songs The Spirit of Radio and Red Barchetta play a big part in some of the action. And Weezer. Any film that uses anything off Weezer’s Blue CD gets big thumbs up from me.

One of the only things that the film has to be worried about is how it walks the line of reality and fantasy. Sometimes the movie is winking at you, like with the celebrity castings, and other times the film is very much based in reality, like when dealing with the very real issue of death. While none of the jokes are too unreal, to try and keep a mainstream audience with the story the filmmakers are going to have to be careful. And while I knew all the celebrity cameos as soon as they appeared on screen, some of them played very flat to the audience that I was with. In the car ride home I had to explain who Ray Park was to my friends.

I think that everyone who has ever loved Star Wars is really going to enjoy all the inside jokes and little touches that the film peppers throughout the journey across the country. While watching the film it was great to hear who really knew Star Wars, as we were the only ones laughing at certain things. It was almost like we were watching our own movie inside the other movie.

But the great thing as I have said before is that the film works even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars. Ultimately what drives this film are the performances by the actors. You don’t have to care about Episode One or even Star Wars in general to appreciate what they are trying to do. If you had a friend who was dying, and they wanted to do something before they died, wouldn’t you do everything you could to make that dream a reality. That is Fanboys. Great friends trying to help a friend.

While the rough cut we saw tonight is not perfect, I see a great film inside. With some tightening and fine tuning this Star Wars road trip movie might break through to the main stream. While the film is filled with numerous inside jokes for all of us fanboys, the heart of the film is all about friendship.

The point I am trying to make is the film is a lot of fun and really took me back to the way I felt about Star Wars in the late 90’s. There was a time when I lived and breathed all things Lucas and this film paints that reality as neither good nor bad, it just is. And while I have moved on from Star Wars in my every day life, watching the film I had a smile all across my face. I think anyone who has ever enjoyed being a die-hard fanboy about anything is going to enjoy this film, especially jaded, used to be die-hard, Star Wars fans.

The Actors

Jay Baruchel and Dan Fogler

Sam Huntington

Chris Marquette

Kristen Bell

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