Halloween 1998 and Eric (Sam Huntington), Linus (Chris Marquette), Windows (Jay Baruchel) and Hutch (Dan Fogler) are at a party debating Star Wars trivia. The friends have done this for years and apart from Eric, who is trying to ‘get on with his life’, the friends seem happy with their fanboy lives.
Desperate to see The Phantom Menace, which isn’t released for seven months, the friends have even hatched a plan to break into Lucas’ Skywalker ranch and steal the film. They’ve never acted on the plan but realise that they have to when it becomes obvious that Linus, who has terminal cancer, will not live long enough to see the film released. The friends embark on a road trip to steal the film . On the adventure they are joined by Zoe (Kristen Bell) (pictured above) and they also meet a whole host of other characters, often played by very familiar actors and actresses.
The story behind the making of Fanboys is pretty well known by now but if you’re not familiar with it, the fact that today saw the UK premiere of the film, which was made in 2007 , should give you an idea of the troubled journey this film has been on.
Directed by Kyle Newman from a script by Adam F. Goldberg and Ernest Cline, Fanboys went into production under The Weinstein Company banner and as soon as shooting wrapped problems set in. The Weinstein’s were supposedly not happy with Kyle Newman’s version of the film and test screened the film multiple times, hired a new editor and generally messed around with the film in an effort to get it closer to what they wanted.
The film released in US theatres and on DVD and Blu-ray (and soon in the UK) is not the cut that Newman wanted but it is a little closer to his vision than it could have been. Newman was given a last minute chance to cut the film but under what sound like ridiculous conditions. He has made it clear publicly that this is a cut that he is happy with but there is a better one.
The unfortunate thing about all these behind the scenes machinations is that they perhaps show in the film. Fanboys is a lot of fun and also has heart to it with a touching sub-plot that gives the film a strong backbone. The mix of drama and comedy doesn’t fit together particularly well though and the film is a bit of a mess because of it. An enjoyable and touching mess nonetheless. It is hard to judge the film too harshly for these faults as the editing nightmare that appears to have occurred seems to explains this but unfortunately we can only view the film in its current state.
The emotional beats in the film are welcome as they really pull together what could have simply been a gag heavy comedy. The comedy moments are also really good though and there is enough for any regular audience to laugh at but enough jokes that hit all the right fanboy buttons too. You don’t have to be a ‘fanboy’ yourself to like the film but it certainly helps. Central to this working in the film is the fact that Newman treats the ‘fanboy community’ with care and despite poking fun at a lot of aspects of this he never slips into simple mockery. It is clear too that Newman feels like he is one of them too. The result is akin to a bunch of friends who joke around with each other, in a light hearted and mocking way. It’s okay, because their friends.
Fanboys is a warm and charming film, both funny and touching and despite a couple of clunky moments, that could be attributed to the edit, it is a really enjoyable and engaging film with a lot to offer.
(plus, it’s better than The Phantom Menace…)
For more on the troubled history behind Fanboys check out the excellent /Filmcast After Dark featuring Kyle Newman.