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Fanboys

Fanboys

Rated PG-13, 90 min. Directed by Kyle Newman. Starring Sam Huntington, Chris Marquette, Dan Fogler, Jay Baruchel, Kristen Bell, Christopher McDonald, Seth Rogen, Ethan Suplee, Danny Trejo.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Feb. 6, 2009

"What if the movie sucks?" one Star Wars fanatic asks another in 1999, just as the lights go down on the opening night of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Fanboys – bless its earnest, sweetly geeked heart – wisely waits till the end of the film to bring up the elephant in the room. We all know what happened next – that George Lucas' latter-era trilogy by and large sucked, the bitter taste of which still lingers – but Fanboys sets itself in the months leading up to the release, when hearts were still full of hope and geekboys everywhere told time by their Episode I countdown clock. (Austin scriptwriter Ernie Cline wrote the first draft prior to The Phantom Menace's release.) When one of their own, newly diagnosed with a terminal illness, stares down an expiration date prior to Episode I's release, the title's fanboys make it their holy crusade to drive cross-country to Lucas' Skywalker Ranch and break into the facility in order to watch a rough cut of the film. Fanboys is something of a slow starter; its leads, Huntington and Marquette, share a laconic acting style and poker-face resemblance, and their characters' rift isn't terribly interesting. But the supporting players – including Tony Award winner Fogler, Tropic Thunder's wiry Baruchel, and Veronica Mars' Bell as the gang's Girl Friday – give the film enough juice to coast to a second-act peyote trip (hosted by no less than Danny Trejo) that breaks the seal on gut-busting laughs. It comes as no surprise that the film is less about fandom as it is about the community fans create with one another – who else to turn to when the object of your affection, your enduring obsession, blows big chunks? – and Fanboys, a likable, shaggy picture, pays nice tribute to that community. (See "Fan Favorite," Feb. 6, for an interview with screenwriter Ernie Cline.)
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