Brick to the Future - The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special
The original Star Wars Holiday Special hit the small screens only a year after Star Wars debuted. Eager fans young and old were desperate to see their heroes back in action, which makes the confusing circumstances of the now infamous special all the more confounding. Following up a blockbuster hit with a variety show was a bizarre move, one which creator George Lucas has tried to deny involvement with ever since.
Based around Life Day, a vaguely Masonic Christmas analogue for Wookiees, the Special had a loose plot of Chewbacca trying to get back to his family to celebrate. Long before the Expanded Universe ran every side-character into the ground with pointless backstories and trivia, learning Chewie was a deadbeat dad must have been quite the surprise.
Other highlights include his father Itchy becoming visibly aroused watching VR music videos, a Cantina music number by Bea Arthur and an almost entertaining if trippy cartoon introducing Boba Fett.
The new Lego Star Wars Holiday Special aims to rectify the madness of the original by making a narrative-focused, light comedy adventure. It succeeds in that it’s the opposite of the original but this also extends to making sure this animated escapade is utterly uninteresting as a result.
Following the events of The Rise of Skywalker (which you can’t be blamed for forgetting) Rey, Finn and company are preparing for Life Day. The holiday is now Christmas in everything but the name which makes you wonder which saviour's birth they’re celebrating? Monk turned fascist and child of prophecy Anakin Skywalker? His children? Baby Yoda? Anyway, Rey bails, deciding to pursue a path of Jedi knowledge that should help her train Finn, leading to her discovery of an ancient time-travelling crystal.
Their initial training sequence tells you everything you need to know about this special, indeed maybe even the series as a whole at the moment. In a sequence directly lifted from Luke’s training aboard the Millennium Falcon, Rey tells her pupil that Jedi must learn to “let go.” If only this franchise could do the same, as we’re brought through a series of “remember this?” moments that provide only surface level, sub-par Robot Chicken gags.
The rest of the story is a tenuous re-imagining of Back to the Future 2 as villains Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine manage to steal the time travelling crystal from Rey. In a It’s a Wonderful Life-esque scenario, visiting a timeline where the villains win is an interesting one. However, this franchise is too scared of new ideas to expand its borders even for a Christmas lark.
At no point do they even bother to address that Palpatine and Rey are related (sigh). In a franchise so doggedly committed to family (only Fast & Furious can compete), why would they not make that the theme of their Christmas special?
For a collaboration between two enormous brands, it’s also a pity that the animation is so unappealing compared to the tactile feature-length Lego movies. The stop-motion style movement of Emmet and company provides a charm that gives even their worst jokes some leeway. Here there’s no such buffer protecting us from tired “it’s a trap” jokes. None of the gags are as funny as seeing Harrison Ford telling Chewbacca’s family he loves them through the most gritted teeth in the galaxy, perhaps the highlight of the original.
Despite even some decent gags thrown in, the special doesn't even have the comic timing, or pace to deliver the jokes effectively. Everything is rushed, and inconsequential, making it no wonder the trailer come off better than the finished product itself.
At least that is one saving grace, this new venture is short, a blissful 47 minutes. In that time, however, you could fit two episodes of the excellent final season of Clone Wars or the excellent western fun of The Mandalorian’s season two premiere. There’s still life in this franchise but tired exercises in regurgitated nostalgia and glib self-referential humour like this could fool you into thinking otherwise.
Dago-bah Humbug indeed!
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