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Critics say LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is 'fun,' redeems the infamous '78 version

By Josh Weiss
LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special

Forty-two years ago this week, George Lucas unleashed the Star Wars Holiday Special onto an unsuspecting world. Unlike the first Star Wars movie released the year before, the televised event was so reviled, that Lucas would later wish that he could round up and destroy every copy in existence. While it's taking over four decades, that legacy of shame has been rectified by the brand-new LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. Reviews are now being published for the animated project, which hits Disney+ tomorrow — the 42nd anniversary of the original special airing on CBS.

"It’s as delectable and digestible as one of Frog Lady’s precious eggs," writes Ben Travis of Empire Magazine in their four-star review, which cheekily referencing Season 2 of The Mandalorian. "Finally, here’s a Holiday Special that Star Wars fans will enjoy on a level that isn’t purely ironic."

"The ridiculousness of the original holiday special lives on in the silliness of LEGO mechanics, which makes the new Life Day re-telling all the more fun. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special amps up that cheesiness in the best way possible, taking all the bad with the good, in a charming ode to the 1978 television special," says The A.V. Club's Angelica Cataldo.

Just like its '78 predecessor, the LEGO Holiday Special revolves around the celebration of Life Day (the galaxy's equivalent to birthdays on Earth). Ahead of the festivities, Rey heads off on an adventure with BB-8 to an ancient Jedi temple, where she finds a device that allows her to travel through time. As a result, she's able to revisit some of the franchise's biggest moments, à la Avengers: Endgame. And yes, Mando and Baby Yoda do make an appearance. 

"A lot of laughs and wild, impossible crossovers come from her frantically flying through time," says Ethan Anderton for /FILM. "Darth Vader meets himself during the Empire’s assault on Hoth, for example. And old and young Han Solo both give Greedo what’s coming to him. There’s also a big lightsaber battle aboard the speeding podracers of Anakin Skywalker and Sebulba, which also careen through various points in time, dragging more and more Star Wars characters with them until there’s a massive assembly of heroes and villains who begin to battle each other in the middle of the Lars homestead on Tatooine, much to the surprise of a young Luke Skywalker drinking little carton of blue milk. Even the upper half of Darth Maul gets in on the action."

Writing for CinemaBlend, Eric Eisenberg states that the feature is definitely targeted at younger viewers. "The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special has the honor of redeeming the name of holiday specials in the Star Wars legacy, which is something to hang its hat on — though that’s only saying so much when its predecessor is the only thing in the franchise that is universally reviled," he writes. "It’s fun, it’s short, it has a few surprises, and it’s basically just ok."

Written by David Shayne and directed by Ken Cunningham, the brick-based event runs for 45 minutes features the voice talents several Lucasfilm veterans: Kelly Marie Tran ("Rose Tico"),  Billy Dee Williams ("Lando Calrissian"), Anthony Daniels ("C-3PO"), Matt Lanter ("Anakin Skywalker"), Tom Kane ("Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn"), James Arnold Taylor ("Obi-Wan Kenobi"), and Dee Bradley Baker ("clone troopers"). It's not clear who will be voicing Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac did not return to portray Rey, Finn, and Poe.

"There are a couple huge differences between this version and the 1978 version," writes Uproxx's Mike Ryan. "The first is, this time, very few members of the actual cast returned to voice their roles. The second is, this version is actually watchable."