“Fanboys” isn’t so much a cohesive movie with a plot as it is a shoddily shot litany of random geek arcania.
The year is 1998, and four friends schlep from Ohio to California to break into George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch and sneak an early peek at “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” There’s Eric (Sam Huntington), who’s on the verge of reluctantly taking over his dad’s car dealerships; Linus (Christopher Marquette), who’s still bitter with Eric for bailing on their plan to create a comic book series; the furry, portly Hutch (Dan Fogler), who still lives in his mom’s garage (he repeatedly insists it’s a carriage house, a joke that’s not even funny once); and the scrawny Windows (Jay Baruchel), who’s obsessed with the online girlfriend he’s never met.
En route, they clash with Trekkies, wind up in a gay Latino biker bar and debate important matters like whether Luke and Leia knew they were related when they kissed. They also rattle off a dizzying array of lines not just from the original “Star Wars” trilogy but also countless other movies, from “Top Gun” to “Dirty Dancing.” And that’s the entire script.
Adding to the scattered nature of “Fanboys,” for a movie that’s supposed to be steeped in a specific period in pop culture, the music is strangely off; “Whoomp! (There It Is),” for example, is about five years old. But now we’re really nitpicking. (Then again, “Fanboys” was shot three years ago and is just now seeing the light of day, so maybe it exists in some sort of time warp. Lightspeed in reverse, if you will.)
As if this weren’t obviously Attention Deficit Disorder Theater, there are cameos from various “Star Wars” icons, Seth Rogen in three different roles and William Shatner, perpetuating his well-established sense of self-parody.
Considering the subject matter, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a Kevin Smith movie. It’s not. But hey, whaddaya know — there he is making a cameo of his own, outside a convenience store (natch) alongside Jason Mewes, the Jay to his Silent Bob. Rather than seeming cute and clever, the sensory overload feels like a pointless onslaught.
Kristen Bell provides the lone source of joy as Zoe, Windows’ ideal mix of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Janeane Garofalo. She’s the coolest character in the movie — until she gets stuck in a wedged-in romance.
Into this mix, director Kyle Newman and a trio of screenwriters inject an ill-advised subplot involving terminal cancer. To give the movie ... gravitas? Poignancy? Who knows. But it does allow one character to say to another while sitting in front of a campfire, “This was never about the movie. This was about all of us.” Well, duh.
A couple of the in-jokes are borderline amusing off the top, but even if these were your friends and this was your road trip, you’d want to jump out of Hutch’s battered van before you left the Central Time Zone.
At the end of their journey, Eric wonders aloud about “Phantom Menace,” “What if the movie sucks?” Here’s a hint: It does. And it’s not the only one.