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Remembering Fanboys, the Ultimate Star Wars Road Trip
If anyone deserves to infiltrate Skywalker Ranch, it’s these guys.
No matter how geeky your fan culture might be, there’s always another, even-geekier one to make fun of. In the 2009 throwback homage comedy Fanboys (streaming here on Peacock!), Star Wars fans are the movie universe’s alpha dogs, happy for the galaxy far, far away to be the butt of the rest of the non-nerdy world’s nerd-out jokes… so long, that is, as they can still make fun of Star Trek.
Why you should revisit Fanboys, now streaming on Peacock
Fanboys is a throwback in more ways than one. More than most movies made in 2009, its crude comedy sometimes feels dated with jokes that don’t fly by today’s more buttoned-down Hollywood standards. In a way, that just reinforces the comedy’s nostalgic overtones, after all, it’s a good-natured look at a seismic movie event — the hype leading up to the 1999 release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace — that itself was already a decade in the Death Star’s rearview mirror by the time Fanboys debuted.
There’s a plot to Fanboys, sort of, but it’s really just an excuse for taking an affectionate (and often spot-on) glimpse into the most devoted nether reaches of Star Wars fandom. A gaggle of childhood friends, now young adults, rekindle their old-school passion for George Lucas’ sci-fi creation by staging a cross-country road trip with the goal of breaking into Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and taking a pre-release sneak peek at the finished cut of The Phantom Menace before its May 19, 1999 release in theaters. To raise the sentimental stakes, there’s a bucket-list angle to the mission: It’s possibly the last chance for one of the crew, Linus (Chris Marquette), to have a final fling with his friends after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.
“Rekindle” is kind of a misnomer, though. Everyone in the gang but Eric (Sam Huntington) — a dead-inside car dealership scion who’s literally cosplaying at being a grown-up in a business suit — never really let maturity extinguish the force-ful flame of their childhood Star Wars passions. The coolest among them, an affably unambitious loser named Hutch (Fantastic Beasts franchise veteran Dan Fogler), drives around in a Millennium Falcon-inspired van with airbrushed Star Wars graphics on the side and Rush tunes blaring 24/7 (“In my van,” he declares, “it’s Rush — all Rush, all the time!”)
Whether Star Wars, Star Trek, Rush, or whatever — Fanboys is at its funniest when it puts die-hard fan groups on a collision course with each other and pokes amiable fun at the ridiculousness of it all. William Shatner — just one of the many killer cameos in a movie where Carrie Fisher sneaks onscreen as a hospital nurse and Billy Dee Williams plays a judge named “Judge Reinhold” — shows up midway through the mayhem to give the gang the vital intel they’ll definitely need to penetrate the defenses of Skywalker Ranch. But Shatner barely has enough time to make the crucial handoff… before being set upon by (what else?) a group of cosplaying, Star Trek-crazed Trekkies.
Even when the jokes fall flat, Fanboys is a fun nerd-out ride-along because its brutal barbs at geekiness all come from a place of love. Director Kyle Newman (Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made) knows his way around Lucasfilm lore, and the movie’s cascade of goofy inside Star Wars winks strikes just the right balance between searing and silly, thanks to an upbeat cast that also includes Kristen Bell (who even gets to channel her inner Princess Leia) and How to Train Your Dragon alum Jay Baruchel (as “Windows,” the bespectacled nom de plume for the gang’s dorkiest member).
These guys are archetypal geeks and they know it. More than that, Fanboys even lets them be proud of it. Sure, someone’s probably laughing at their geeky sci-fi obsessions, but hey, the chance to infiltrate Skywalker Ranch with a passel of your best pals doesn’t exactly come along every day. As Windows declares, “Our names shall be spoken in hushed tones by nerds across the galaxy!” And in Fanboys’ fiction-fixated world, he’s probably right.
Stream Fanboys on Peacock here... and be sure to keep your ears open for the movie's clever use of tons of authentic, George Lucas-approved Star Wars sound effects.