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The force is not with ‘Clone Wars’

Ugly animation and an uninspired storyline drag down the legacy of one of the movies’ greatest franchises.

Legend has it that, on his deathbed, Orson Welles exhorted his loved ones to make sure that Ted Turner — who, at the time, was determined to colorize every black-and-white movie in his library — kept his “goddamn crayons” off of “Citizen Kane.”

But who will stop George Lucas from destroying the legacy of George Lucas?

“Star Wars” lovers have had to deal with lots of heartbreak in the past few decades, from Jar Jar Binks to dozens of different video versions to Greedo shooting first. And now there’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” an uninspiring animated addition to the series that takes us back to a time long, long ago that many of us never wanted to revisit — namely, Episodes I-III.

If you love a “Star Wars” movie that begins with narration about trade routes, you’re in luck. As “Clone Wars” begins, the nefarious Count Dooku (voiced by Christopher Lee, one of the few actors from the live-action movies to reprise his character here) and his rebel droid army are making things difficult for the Republic. The Jedi decide that it’s a priority to form an alliance with Jabba the Hutt, so they pull Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter) out of battle to go and rescue Jabba’s son, who has been kidnapped. (The kid apparently has no name; he’s referred to as “Jabba the Hutt’s son” throughout, except when he’s referred to by some characters as “Stinky.”)

Joining them on this mission is Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), a Padawan learner who has been assigned to train under Skywalker. In a blatant attempt to make the movie more kid-friendly, Ahsoka plays like a character straight out of a Disney Channel sitcom — she’s a sassy teen girl with a halter top, a mini-skirt and a sarcastic rejoinder for every situation.

Meanwhile, Senator Amidala (Catherine Taber) tries to negotiate with Jabba’s uncle, Ziro the Hutt (Corey Burton), only to discover a whole conspiracy behind the kidnapping. Ziro provides the film’s one bit of shocking unpredictability, in that he’s been voiced by Burton to sound exactly like Truman Capote circa “Murder by Death.”

The character animation is astoundingly unpleasant, with human faces that would barely pass muster in a video game. Some of the battle and dogfight sequences are stirring, but since most of the combatants are either androids or clones — talk about cannon fodder — there doesn’t seem to be much at stake. What we’re left with is a lot of pew-pew-pew laser battles with occasional interruptions for “Hangin’ with Mr. Skywalker”–style interactions between Anakin and his Padawan.

Everything about “Clone Wars” feels a little off. Yoda’s famous verb-at-the-end syntax gets so garbled by the writers that he eventually lets out a compound sentence that seems to make no sense whatsoever. Even the legendary John Williams theme has been so badly orchestrated that it sounds like it’s being performed by a third-rate middle-school marching band. Very young kids, “Star Wars” completists and Lucas apologists may find themselves compelled to attend; anyone else would have a better time going to the Toshi Station to pick up power converters.