A Geek Journey

'Fanboys' is a brain-dead teen comedy that substitutes 'Star Wars' references for humor

I told some pals I was going to be watching Fanboys this weekend, and one friend who is a huge Star Wars fan bolted from his job, took two trains and ran to my house to see it, even though he had already seen it once in a theater.

This is baffling, because Fanboys would be the worst movie I'd seen this year if I hadn't just seen Obsessed. But Fanboys is a film by and for Star Wars fanatics, and I guess if you know the name of Chewbacca's home planet and like to tell people that the TIE in TIE Fighter stands for "Twin Ion Engines," then you may just adore this horrible, depressingly bad, never-should-have-been-made movie. God bless you, really.

The film takes place in 1998, a few months before the release of Star Wars: Episode 1—The Phantom Menace. A group of friends has drifted apart in the three years since they graduated from high school. Eric (Sam Huntington) has given up on collecting miniature figurines and masturbating to pictures of Carrie Fisher, and is instead a car salesman. However, his three buddies—Hutch (Dan Fogler), Linus (Chris Marquette, who's much better than the material in this movie and deserves a role in something decent) and Windows (Jay Baruchel)—are still enmeshed in a Wookie world of endless Nintendo and virginity.

So you have the essential formula for a brain-dead teen comedy, and I guess there are worse things to do than make a brain-dead teen comedy. I mean, I've voted for people who've done worse things. But if you're going to make a brain-dead teen comedy, at least make it funny. Fanboys averages about one laugh every 15 minutes, which is better than a Mike Myers movie, but imagine how bad you'd feel if, after sex, you asked your partner how it was, and he or she said, "It was better than a Mike Myers movie."

Instead of laughs, Fanboys is stocked with references to things geeky and Star Wars-ish. There are, for example, cameos by Carrie Fisher, Kevin Smith (a notorious Star Wars fan), Ray Park (who played "some guy" in one of the Star Wars movies) and Billy Dee Williams. There are security guards dressed like THX 1138 police officers. There are, umm, references to Star Wars, most of which I didn't get. But my fanboy friend would occasionally note them as they appeared in the film, so I assume they were importantly relevant.

These references are the hook that will entice a certain subset of the Lucas-loving population to see Fanboys. But I want to warn even them that there is an awful, poorly realized and supposedly motivating element in the film: Linus, one of the 20-something fanboys, is dying, so the four high school friends reunite to drive cross-country to the famed Skywalker Ranch in order to steal a print of the yet-to-be-released Episode 1. Much of the dramatic tension is supposed to revolve around Linus' inability to forgive Eric for leaving the nerdboy fold. But that story is never developed in any detail, and there's no real reason to care for any of the characters since they're mostly two-dimensional stock figures who occasionally give heartfelt speeches. Thus, by the end, when the inevitable happens, it's kind of like watching the wedding of two people you've never met.

Knowing that this story wasn't enough to keep things going, writers Ernest Cline, Adam Goldberg and Dan Pulick stuck in one of my least-favorite reusable plots: Windows, the nerdiest of the nerds, works in a comic shop where his incredibly hot assistant, Zoe (Kristen Bell), is completely in love with him. Only he can't see it, and then there's some sort of mix-up involving hookers, and some further misunderstanding, etc., etc., and then the nerdy guy gets laid. The only problem is that, again, there's no motivation for Zoe to care about this guy. He's never shown any personality, backbone, concern for others or really anything that would make him worthwhile. But he's the nerdboy, and she's beautiful, and writers are hopeless nerdboys, so they tossed him the girl.

At least Zoe is not the characterless prize-girl that haunts a lot of Hollywood movies. But the fact that her character is interesting, seemingly mature and somewhat well-developed makes it even more unlikely that she'd be in love with a cardboard cutout of a discarded character from an unmade sequel to Revenge of the Nerds.

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