Movie Review: The Star Wars Holiday Special

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Chewbacca tries to make it home to his family in time for their planetary holiday, Life Day.

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Steve Binder & David Acomba, 1978

Imperial forces are making it very difficult for Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to make it back to Chewy’s home planet Kashyyk in time for Life Day. At home, Chewy’s wife Malla (Mickey Morton), father Itchy (Paul Gale), and son Lumpy (Patty Maloney) worry about how long it’s taking Chewy to get home. They distract themselves with various bizarre forms of entertainment, allowing for lots of Earth’s celebrities to show up in vaguely Star Warsed-up cameos. The Empire starts tightening their grip on the planet, delaying Han and Chewy further, and Malla looks to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for help, though he isn’t much comfort. Local shop owner Krelman (Harvey Korman) keeps the Imperial forces off Malla and her family’s backs while trying to give them information about Chewy’s whereabouts.

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Attempting to piece together a “plot summary” for the Star Wars Holiday Special is a pain in the ass. The plot is little more than a conceit to put stars who even then were B-listers at best in the Star Wars setting for a cheap ratings grab. And you know, it’s probably worse than the prequels, but I didn’t hate watching it as much as I hated watching the prequels. Perhaps because there isn’t so much resting on this blight on Star Wars history. It’s so blindingly weird that it’s hard to look away. From the start, the choice to focus the “story”, such as it is, on Chewbacca’s poorly designed, non-English-speaking family is a bizarre one. They speak in unsubtitled Wookiee, leaving us guessing as to what the everloving hell they’re saying. That’s only the start of the weirdness. I think the culmination of the weirdness has to be the choice to have Chewy’s father watch the Star Wars version of porn, but it has some stiff contenders. The cheap production value shows during the movie’s numerous, seemingly endless musical numbers, including a glowing Jefferson Starship interlude and the world’s longest scene on Tattooine with Bea Arthur and a Nice Guy with a hole in his head.

The inclusion of Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford is unsuccessful in varying ways. Carrie Fisher was outspoken about the drugs she was on at the time, and her odd behaviour in the final musical number makes much more sense in that light. Mark Hamill’s makeup leaves a lot to be desired, but worse than that is Luke’s flat-out awful scene. He’s mean to R2D2, dismissive of Malla’s fears, and downright unlikeable. Meanwhile, and for good reason, it couldn’t be clearer that Harrison Ford just doesn’t want to be there. In full-on grumpy old Ford persona, he mumbles his way through excruciating scenes miserably. The only time that the characters come to life is in (for some reason) a lengthy cartoon sequence that Lumpy watches, telling the story of one of Han, Luke, and Leia’s adventures as they meet…Boba Fett. And it’s a strange introduction to the notorious bounty hunter, with the gang trusting him implicitly and explicitly, as we’re told over and over again. It’s still probably the highlight of the film, with an energy that the rest of the lacklustre movie can’t match. It’s just…long.

The Star Wars Holiday Special on IMDb

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