Anyone looking for the definition of “insular,” need look no further than Kyle Newman’s Fanboys. In fact, the title says it all, since this is a movie made by—and more importantly—for the fanboy, that sect of geekdom that obsesses over some specific pop-culture subject.
In this case, the focus is Star Wars and the fervor of its followers. It’s obvious that Newman and the film’s three writers have the same level of affection for Star Wars as the characters being portrayed, meaning Fanboys comes across as a labor of love, making it a difficult movie to actively dislike.
This, however, does not keep the film from being generally amateurish in its execution and commonly unfunny due to its very specialized sense of humor. For the ardent Star Wars fan, the references to various geek esoterica, cameos by the likes of Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher and gags at the expense of Star Trek are likely to be the cat’s pajamas. For anyone who doesn’t—or has never—cared about Star Wars, it’s going to be a long slog through a pretty barren desert of R2D2 and Chewbacca jokes.
For the most part, the movie feels like warmed over Kevin Smith, except Smith himself appears to have interests outside of Star Wars (OK, so comic books aren’t much of a departure, but still). Smith can also occasionally write a joke (this becomes pretty apparent in the film itself, since its funniest moment is a Smith cameo). Here, we get the same flat directorial style, but without the sporadic fits of humanity that seem to worm their way into Smith’s work. Sure, there’s an attempt at having a heart, which pokes its head out here and there, but it too often feels like bargain-basement Judd Apatow, since a lot of it works as a love letter to arrested development (not to mention the bevy of the usual Apatow hangers-on who make appearances).
It all takes place in 1998 and depicts the story of four lifelong friends and Star Wars fanboys. There’s the Rush-fixated Hutch (Dan Fogler, Balls of Fury), comic-book-shop owner Windows (Jay Baruchel, Tropic Thunder), Eric (Sam Huntington, Superman Returns), the responsible one who’s attempted to put his fandom behind him and grow up, and Linus (Chris Marquette, The Invisible), who has no defining characteristic other than a case of undefined movie cancer.
As far as movie cancer goes, it’s pretty tepid stuff, since he doesn’t even get to cough fake blood into a handkerchief, but it’s enough for the gang to decide to make a cross-country trek to California in an effort to break into George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and steal a copy of The Phantom Menace before it’s released in theaters. From here, the movie becomes a generic road-trip flick, with all the misadventure that usually entails. Trials and travails of growing up and following one’s dreams are thrown in to spice things up.
The movie is about original as it sounds, though there is an attempt at showing growth in these guys. It also helps that there’s never an argument made for Star Wars being great art. Instead, it’s more about the cultural phenomenon it encapsulates and the way those movies unite some. The idea is understandable and relatable, it’s just too bad the movie itself isn’t any better. Rated PG-13 for pervasive crude and sexual material, language and drug content.