“Fanboys” has less of a sense of humor about its subjects than they do about themselves. It is so afraid of offending the demographic that it cannot decide if it is making fun of passionate fans of popular culture or making fan of everyone who is hasn’t spent hours debating the abilities of Boba Fett. Four high school buddies, now estranged, get together for one crazy mission — they want to break into George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to get a look at the new “Star Wars” movie, “The Phantom Menace,” before anyone else. And the result is just another teen road trip movie, crammed with cameos and many many jokes about body parts and their functions, about mastery of minutiae and saying things like “It’s been parsecs since I’ve seen you” and name-checking things that are oh, so 1998 (Great big Palm Pilots! Chumbawamba!). And isn’t it hilarious that these guys don’t have girlfriends? Yeah, I didn’t think so, either.
The trailer gives away most of the movie’s best surprises including cameos from stars identified with a series of fanboy call signs. Billy Dee Williams is identified as Lando Calrissian, and Carrie Fisher is of course identified as Princess Leia. The real fanboys in the audience will also recognize Ray Park (Darth Maul) and will also appreciate the appearance of the now-indispensable slob comedy utility players Seth Rogan (in three parts), Danny McBride, and Jay and Silent Bob. There are some amusing confrontations between the “Star Wars” geeks and the Trekkers and Kristen Bell (whose brunette bob makes her look like Parker Posey) gives some snap to her lines and wears a Leia harem girl outfit. Someone needs to give the talented Pell James a better job. In her brief and thankless role as a Las Vegas “escort” she lights up the screen with obvious warmth and intelligence.
That is not enough to make up for way we keep getting pulled back to the four bland characters and even blander storylines (you think that conflicts will be addressed? is someone going to find true geek love? will we learn what life is all about?) at what passes for the heart of the movie. It could have been a lot of fun if they hadn’t cheesed it up with a character suffering from Movie Disease — you know, the one where you only have a short time to live but appear and act perfectly healthy — and another character who is struggling with whether he should “grow up” and behave responsibly. It is a shame that a movie about the people who are most passionate about edgy, imaginative stories is itself slipshod and formulaic.