Welcome Fanboys and Fangirls to a very special Christmas edition of ‘Retro Fanboy’ where we will be looking at the much maligned Star Wars: The Holiday Special. No doubt almost every Star Wars fan has heard of the long lost Holiday Special but how many have actually seen it? Well we decided to watch the hunk of junk so you didn’t have to! Is the Holiday Special really as bad as legend dicatates? Was old Uncle George right to bury it deep within the annals of history? And is it really worse the those two Ewok movies? Read on young Jedi…
Before we get into the meat of the review I feel it only fair to put the special into the correct historical context, no this isn’t a sequel to A New Hope, it was made for television on a budget, and whilst it reused props, costumes, and more from the movie, the quality is vastly inferior to any other Star Wars feature. And please don’t forget it is, as the name states, a Holiday Special, something very common of the era, and all of the variety specials of the 70s tended to be incredibly cheesy. With that in mind on to the review… warning, spoilers follow (ha as if you care!)
The special gets off to a promising start with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (presumably Peter Mahew) on the run from Imperial Star Destroyers, trying to get back to Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyk in time to celebrate life day (the Wookie’s own version of Christmas) with his family (yeah that’s right Chewie has a family, who for some reason don’t seem to hate him considering he has effectively abandoned them for a life of crime with smuggler pal Solo). Meanwhile on Kashyyk, Chewie’s incredibly stereotypical 70′s sitcom family are preparing for his arrival home (seriously he abandoned you guys, why do you still like him!) when Stormtroopers turn up with a warrant to search the premises for the rebel fugitive Chewbacca (I am making it sound alot better than it is here) while Chewie’s son Lumpy (you’re just asking for the kid to develop a food dependancy problem with that name) watches a cartoon of one of his dad’s adventures with his life partner Han Solo. It’s during this cartoon (which is actually surprisingly good) that we get the first ever appearance of the intergalactic badass that is Boba Fett. Once the cartoon is over Lumpy decides he has had enough of the Stormtrooper ransacking his family home and decides to trick them into leaving by building a machine that sounds like an Imperial order instructing them to return to base (yeah that’s right Lumpy is some sort of technical genius despite appearing to be about 5 years old… although admittedly I have no idea how Wookie ageing works so he could be like 60 I guess). All but one Stormtrooper return to base when Lumpy’s device malfunctions and the Stormtooper catches on, however Han and Chewie show up just in time to dispatch him and celebrate life day…. along with R2-D2, C3PO, Luke (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) who all appear out of nowhere and without reason at the ceremony.
Visually this looks every bit like a made for TV production, however the recycled props, stock footage and costumes do elevate it above what you would expect for a 70′s show, and Chewbacca’s family home is pretty well designed featuring a good amalgamation of organic and futuristic tech (about as futuristic as an Atari 3000) which suits the Wookies well.
The music is also surprisingly good, echoing the tone and style set by John Williams in A New Hope. The musical segments however are truly appalling and you’ll be screaming for it to stop when Bea Arthur and Princess Leia open their mouths for their musical numbers.
On the whole the acting is a mixed bag, the actors from the Original Trilogy, Harrison Ford in particular, do the best with what they have and is about as good as can be expected given the awful dialogue in the script, although Mark Hamill’s conversation with Chewbacca’s family will make anyone cringe; if you ever wanted to see a horribly bleached blonde Luke Skywalker say “Whats up” then this is your chance. It is the guest stars and new characters (I’m looking at you insane 4 armed chef) that really drag the quality down.
Whilst the special is very hard to watch, due to some frankly bizarre aspects (such as the dancing holograms, and perverted Wookie dream machines), and incredibly cheesy scenes, it actually is great fun seeing the original cast in full costume together. The cartoon that introduces fan favourite Boba Fett is undoubtedly the highlight of the show, and if you were to trim down some of the longer scenes, cut out all of the annoying guest appearances (please god stop singing Bea Arthur) and the variety segments (seriously how did the cooking segment make it’s way in there in the first place?) there is a fun little story surrounding Chewie’s family. However at 2 hours long in it’s full cheesy entirety this really is just a great big flaming piece of Bantha Poodoo and certainly lives up to the legend that precedes it. Still The Holiday Special is something every Star Wars fan should check out at one time or another, just remember don’t go into it with a serious mindset (or with an expectancy of fun).