Dec 30, 2011

[Movies] The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

As a last holiday-related review, I finally took the time to watch the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, despite all the bad buzz about the TV special even among die hard Star Wars fans. But you know how people are when they come across a train wreck of a movie like this - you just can't help but stop and stare and see what the fuss is all about.

Finding a copy wasn't nearly as hard as finishing the show, I have to admit. It wasn't totally horrendous - but it was rather boring with significant pacing issues. I meant there are bad movies that are painful to watch and this was just a bit of a struggle to finish. I'll try to pinpoint precisely why this was so in the course of this review, which is my normal manner of trying to process something as weird as this.

It helps to appreciate that a lot of the "holiday specials" that are forced upon franchises, perhaps save for Doctor Who, tend to twist the characters into weird new ways that seems contrary to how they are normally depicted in the franchise's main movies, TV shows or whatever other medium it gets featured in. It's something that gets demanded of the franchise by the studio executives and is not typically driven by a true creative imperative.

And you know how that goes - once the demands of the business supersede the franchise's creative integrity, then you get some weird stuff instead.

The Star Wars Holiday Special was a 1978 television special on CBS. It was directed Steve Binder written by the team of Pat Proft, Leonard Ripps, Bruce Vilanch, Rod Warren and Mitzie Welch. These are the folks that we have to blame for this little curiosity in Star Wars history.

The story begins with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) dodging two Imperial Star Destoyers. They're trying to get home to Chewbacca's family in time for "Life Day", a holiday somewhat akin to our Christmas. Meanwhile, we get then meet Chewie's family on Kashyyyk as they await his return.

At this point it's important to remember that the show is meant to be more of a comedy than anything else. While it was released before The Empire Strikes Back, it seems everyone is tripping on something else entirel. Thus we get to watch Malla (Mickey Morton) in an apron trying to prepare her Life Day feast by following along with a strange alien cooking show featuring Harvey Korman in drag. Then we also have Chewie's son Lumpy (Patty Maloney) acting more like an Ewok and grampa Itchy (Paul Gale) being more background noise.

Leia and C-3PO in The Star Wars Holiday Special
Image via Wikipedia
The show mainly follows Malla and the rest as they wait for Han and Chewie to get home while she tries to find more important from the rest of the Star Wars cast like Luke (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).

And given it is a holiday variety special of course, the narrative has interesting interludes featuring the likes of Jefferson Starship and Diahann Carroll. It doesn't have to make sense - it just happens.

The true claim to fame for this special that help redeem it to some extent is the animated short in the middle that actually introduces the infamous Boba Fett. It's interesting how Boba Fett does go on to become one of the fan favorite characters despite having so few speaking lines in the movies. If anything, it looks like he had even more dialog in the animated short than in all the movies combined, believe it or not. So yeah, that cute little cartoon really worked for me.

The plot, if you can call it that, just meanders from even to even like a weird collection of sketches strung together. The story feels a bit protracted in terms of the waiting for Chewie to come on and it's not like we can do anything to help them get home. Nor do the other principal characters do anything other than try to cheer Malla up or make her smile. Not exactly riveting stuff.

But if anything, it's funny to consider that the events in this special are now considered canon in terms of the larger Star Wars universe. Amazing.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of those weird side roads that every franchise finds itself on sooner or later because of its success. I don't think it was as bad as many people say it is, but maybe I'm just that biased for Boba Fet.. The special gets 1.5 celebrity cameos of no continuity value out of a possible 5.

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