Movie Review: Fanboys (DVD Wide Release)

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Read my bio to see how much of an obvious fanboy I am.  My nickname in elementary school was “the alien” (traumatic at first, but I ultimately embraced it).  Geek culture is an enormous part of my life and in the lives of my friends.  While I am a fairly realistic and grounded person, I do go to midnight showings.  I do stand on line for hours.  I do clap after a movie’s over.  I do wear a fanboy shirt (or bring a towel in the case of Hitchhiker’s Guide). And damnit, I love every second of it.  There is something thrilling about being involved with an interest that brings millions and millions of people together, that for a couple of hours makes us all escape into a world of creativity.  A place that’s just that much more exciting than our own.

The independent DVD release of the movie Fanboys isn’t just a love letter to geek culture.  It’s a love letter to the reasons behind fan culture, to the people involved with it, to the fans themselves and ultimately to what it’s like to live a life without “finding your Death Star”.  As a recent college grad with many paths ahead of me – none of which I’m certain about – I can definitely relate to EVERY theme this movie touches upon.  Its cast of characters is essentially people I’ve known and loved my entire life.  Their search for purpose and drive in a big, scary world is something my friends and I are experiencing right now.  In essence, Fanboys isn’t just about what it means to be a fan, it’s an accurate depiction of the geek and geek culture as well as what it feels like to be an early-mid-20-something without a direction in life.

Fanboys takes place in 1998 and 1999 during the months before Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released in theaters.  It involves an epic quest (in the form of a road trip) from Ohio to California to steal a work-print of the afore-mentioned Episode I.  Of course our crew of eccentric geeks meet hurdle after hurdle, but the heart-factor is cranked so far up that the laugh riot comedy is balanced by misty-eyed reality.  Celebrity and geek culture cameos are everywhere, all of which are absolutely fantastic.  What could have been a generic road trip with stereotypical geeks becomes a wonderful laugh fest with compelling characters and that extra dose of grounded realism that’s been tragically lacking in most current comedies.

The cast of Fanboys is damn near perfect.  The five major players include Sam Huntington (Eric), Chris Marquette (Linus), Dan Fogler (Hutch), Jay Baruchel (Windows) and the always shining Kristen Bell (Zoe).  Huntington’s interpretation of the “former geek who abandoned his friends to pursue a boring career” could have been cardboard and flat-out annoying, but he effectively generates a sympathetic character that is doing what he should be doing and not what he needs to be doing.  Chris Marquette is instantly likeable as the very down-to-earth Linus, who refuses to let his Star Wars obsession die as he matures (he also has a dark secret but spoiling it would ruin the film).  Dan Fogler’s Hutch is a delightfully over-the-top supergeek who’s tricked out van is covered with Star Wars memorabilia.  Though Hutch is the quintessential loser geek who lives in his mom’s garage and has no grasp on reality, Fogler plays him with a heart and never juices up the hamming too far.  Jay Baruchel (of Tropic Thunder fame) plays the lanky and socially inept geek/nerd Windows with a wonderfully endearing awkwardness.  The adorable Kristen Bell absolutely sparkles as Zoe, the loyal, hard-working, and wonderfully geeky girl who is far worldlier than any of her male companions.  Bell infuses Zoe with a take-charge charm and vulnerable soft side that epitomizes what geeky guys like me live to find in a woman (for those wondering, I’ve already found one and no, you can’t have her).  Cameos and supporting roles are varied and numerous, from Seth Rogan (he plays more than one character – look carefully) to Danny McBride, Christopher McDonald, Danny Trejo, Will Forte, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Carrie Fisher, the Shat himself William Shatner, the pimptastic Billy Dee Williams and many more.  We’re spoiled beyond belief with the geek culture cameos, each one flawlessly executed and absolutely hysterical.

For a low-budget independent comedy, the production values are fairly solid.  Sets are great, effects are good when needed, cinematography is used to humorous effect at times, music is absolutely perfect, props are late-‘90s appropriate and makeup and costumes are hilarious (especially during convention scenes).  The soundtrack is retro late ‘90s alternative.  Stuff I used to listen to.  Chumbawumba.  Old school Smashing Pumpkins.  The Presidents of the United States of America.  And a not-so-late-‘90s inclusion of that ultimate geek band – Rush.  The nostalgia factor alone made me grin like a complete moron.  Everything from this time period is legit, from late ‘90s cars, mentioning of late ‘90s television, and a glorious appearance of the Nintendo 64 (that unparalleled platform of god-like games without which many happy memories would be nonexistent).  I miss those days.  Innocence lost.

Major props have to go to director Kyle Newman and script writers Ernest Cline and Adam F. Goldberg.  Together, they’ve crafted a wonderfully human comedy about the escapades of best friends layered with the glories of geekdom.  Fanboys is a universal comedy whose jokes don’t solely apply to the geekiest of the geeks.  See it to laugh, see it to appreciate what is best in life and see it to realize that we all need to “find our Death Star”.  Fanboys is a fantastic 9/10 in my book.  With Fanboys and Adventureland, I see a lot of hope in the future of American comedy.  Necca out.

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