The Star Wars Holiday Special: How. Why. WHYYYY? – YouTube Review

This cinematic mistake has never been released officially and that’s for the best.

SUMMARY (Spoilers, but you should be thanking me)

Look, here’s the damn video:

It’s Life Day, which is apparently like Wookie Christmas. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is trying to get Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) home to his wife, Malla (Mickey Morton), his father, Itchy (Paul Gale), and his son, Lumpy (Patty Maloney). Most of the special is dealing with the family waiting for his return. Malla contacts Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill *Applause*) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker wasn’t in this, but he’s awesome and I’m putting his name here), who explains that Chewy already left with Han. Malla contacts the trader Saun Dann (Art Carney), who tells her that Han is on the way and heads out toward her house. Malla watches Chef Gormaanda (Harvey Korman) demonstrate cooking a Bantha loin. Saun arrives with a VR program as a gift for Itchy that features Diahann Carroll and is uncomfortably erotic. The Imperials arrive at the house searching for Chewbacca and Saun distracts them with a VR performance by Jefferson Starship. 

Wookies don’t age well.

Malla keeps Lumpy distracted with a cartoon featuring the adventures of the cast of Star Wars meeting Boba Fett (Don “Iron Buffalo” Francks). A video is played by the Imperials announcing that Tatooine is being placed under curfew, represented by Ackmena (Bea Arthur), the Mos Eisley Bartender, having to kick out her clients while singing. Lumpy creates a translation device that mimics the voice of the Imperial commander and tricks the stormtroopers into leaving. One stormtrooper sees through it and attacks Lumpy, only for Han to arrive and kill him. Saun covers for the dead trooper and the whole group joins Luke, Leia (Carrie “Space Mom” Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 at the Tree of Life church “Our Lady of WRaaaaaaagh.” Leia gives a short speech and a song, then the Wookies sit down to eat.

So much greatness onscreen, so much fail surrounding it.

There’s also a crazy troupe of mummers, a bad instruction manual featuring Harvey Korman, and enough drugs to put a charging rhino down.

DRUGS ARE BAD, KIDS.

END SUMMARY

This is the third time I’ve seen this special. It seemed bad when I was a teenager and some people from my school had a bootleg. It seemed really bad when I was in college and a friend of mine showed it while we were drunk. It somehow was even worse when I watched it this time, probably because I was mostly sober. That was a mistake. 

Even the actors realize how bad this is going at some points.

Almost everything in this is astonishingly bad and it’s bad in the worst way. Someone said it was written by a sentient bag of cocaine and I find that to be completely untrue. If it was a bag of cocaine it would likely have been alert, wild, and interestingly off-kilter (cards on the table, I haven’t done cocaine, but I’ve been with people who have). This was crazy, but in a lazy way where everything is left on the screen for so long that any charm it might have had slowly dies a painful death. It’s like it was written by a sentient barrel of laudanum.

Bea Arthur’s great, but cocaine would get you Rick James.

It’s all about the tolerance we have for these scenes. Wookies talking without subtitles is fine as long as you either A) have someone who can clue us in or B) the conversations are completely clear from their body language and actions. In this case, some of the wookie-only scenes are so long that I assume there was a discussion of either baseball statistics or the plot of Inception. The mummer troupe goes from “kind of amusing” to “way too creepy.” In two entirely different bits, Harvey Korman, one of the funniest people alive, is forced to stretch for time. My only conclusion is that this was written for one hour and then they were spontaneously told that the Love Boat had sank or something, so they had to fill double the time. It’s just painful how everything goes on well past what you would have tolerated. Even if the scenes had been good, 10 minutes of watching a four-armed chef is just going to get old. 

Stir, whip, whip stir whip stir. It haunts my dream.

Then there are the other, much more bizarre moments. For example, the video program that Itchy watches is pretty clearly the Star Wars version of pornography. My first thought on re-watch is “oh damn, they still dragged poor Diahann Carroll into this.” It would be bad enough to just watch some of the things she says into the camera, but Itchy’s reaction shots ratchet it up from “uncomfortable” to “nightmare-inducing.” The same is true of many of Lumpy’s facial movements. I’m not going to take shots at Stan Winston or at Patty Maloney, I’m just going to say that someone, somewhere, needed to realize the only solution to this costume issue was fire and lots of it. It’s like I’m seeing into the eyes of a damned soul and now I feel only cold. I swear I thought I had a heart attack during some parts of this because my body started going numb.

70s Porn was already nuts.

It doesn’t help that so much of the film is based around watching people watching things as the framing device. Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, the cartoon, etc. are all things that are being watched by the characters. It’s a conceit designed to work the guests into the story, but it’s kind of a terrible one and it really makes you question how media promulgates in the Star Wars universe. Since Star Wars doesn’t really seem to have pop culture or media in any other incarnation, it makes it even more glaringly awkward to inject weird modern-day references. 

Also, why do they have cartoons about real people in this universe?

Overall, this is just so very bad. It’s almost worth seeing just to recognize how bad it is. It’s astonishing that something like this ever got made. 

And since she requested that I watch it, here’s a forced commentary from The Faceless Old Woman that Lives on my Couch:

What more is there to say about this work of cinema? I spent most of it wondering “is something going to happen soon?” I was told that was the theme of this special. I’d wanted to see this because it seemed like everyone else had. Everyone had told me it was very bad and never to watch it, but I didn’t really understand. Given what I knew of Star Wars, I assumed it was just very cheesy and not very good. I couldn’t have conceived of how BAD it was, though. Maybe if someone had just explained to me that it is not like a regular piece of Star Wars media, where there is a story and the characters do things in the story – it is meant to be like a variety show. How could I have predicted the uninterpreted Wookie? That the characters everyone likes would barely be in it? The perm machine that’s actually a VR porn viewer? It’s truly an accomplishment to make Star Wars deeply disturbing and NOT entertaining, but they did it! The best thing about it is Mark Hamill in eyeliner and hearing my boyfriend repeatedly moan, “I didn’t know I could be this dead inside.” I’m going to finish this eggnog and try to forget about what I saw.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The third Star Wars trilogy has ended and I’m finally agreeing to review one of them.

SUMMARY 

THE DEAD SPEAK!!! By which I mean that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) sends a broadcast into the galaxy in order to apparently draw in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). It turns out that Palpatine created Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) in order to draw Ren to the dark side. He reveals that he has a fleet of planet-killing ships called the “Final Order” that are set to launch soon and promises Ren a place at his side if he kills Rey (Daisy Ridley). Naturally, the good guys find this out with about 24 hours to stop it. Rey is training under General Leia Organa (Carrie “I love you, Space Mom” Fisher), but upon finding out that Palpatine is back, she joins Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and BB-8 in order to locate a wayfinder to the planet where Palpatine is. 

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Chewbacca considers their existences to be but blips in his extended life.

The group heads to desert planet Pasaana where they meet Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee “F*cking” Williams), who helps them find a dagger that contains Sith writing. Rey and Kylo Ren fight and Rey accidentally blows up a ship that she thinks has Chewbacca on it. C-3PO can translate the dagger, but he can’t divulge the translation, so they have to take him to another planet where he gets his memory wiped and Poe sees his ex-girlfriend Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell). Rey finds out Chewbacca’s still alive, so the group rescues him and they find the location of the wayfinder is… on the second Death Star. Or what’s left of it, rather.

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Given what happened to the real-life Death Star, this seems minor.

When the group gets there, they meet Jannah (Naomi Ackle), a former stormtrooper and Rey and Kylo Ren fight again. Leia dies calling out to Kylo Ren, allowing Rey to strike a lethal blow, but she heals him. Rey leaves, alone, but finds the wayfinder after speaking with a dead Luke Skywalker (Mark “The Best Joker” Hamill) as Kylo Ren turns good after speaking with a memory of the dead Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Also, Rey’s Palpatine’s granddaughter, because sure. Rey heads to Exegol, the hidden planet of the Sith, while telling the rest of the Resistance how to get there. The Resistance is short on manpower, but Poe believes that the rest of the galaxy will show up to fight when the chips are down. Kylo Ren, now Ben Solo again, arrive at Exegol and kill the knights of Ren, but get their asses kicked by a literally crippled and blind Palpatine, who incapacitates them both. Rey, empowered by all the Jedi from the series so far, uses two lightsabers to reflect Palpatine’s force lightning back at him, killing him until the plot will require otherwise. Rey dies from her injuries, but is revived by Ben Solo who dies in her place. Lando Calrissian does most of the Resistance’s heavy lifting and brings reinforcements to destroy the “Final Order.” Rey goes to Tatooine and buries Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers,  presumably because Alderaan is harder to bury stuff in, and changes her name to Rey Skywalker.

END SUMMARY

Star Wars has been a big part of my life, as I’m sure it has for almost everyone from my generation. I was too young to see the original films, but I watched the VHS copies at more than a dozen houses when I was growing up, because I was friends with nerds. Since then, I’ve been with it through the good and the bad. I was there when Han stopped shooting first. I was there when Shadows of the Empire gave us that awesome Hoth level. I was there when Midichlorians were suddenly how the Force worked rather than, you know, space magic. I was there when Captain Rex ran the last flight to Endor on Star Tours. I was there when Ahsoka Tano met the completely different Captain Rex. I read the Thrawn Trilogy and still consider the character to be one of the best contributions to the franchise and I was there when he finally became canon. I owe a ton to this franchise and, even when it’s had its low points, they’ve always been worth it for the highs. 

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Including this omega-level high from The Force Awakens

And that’s this film in a nutshell: A bunch of lows that you can ignore to get to the highs. 

I assume after suggesting that this film has lows that several of you are going to attempt to leap through the screen and murder me, so I can only respond that I love Star Wars and part of loving it is accepting that it isn’t perfect. Love requires accepting flaws, otherwise you’re just lusting after an ideal… of Star Wars

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No one lusts after Ewo… oh, right, I guess some people do.

The biggest problem with the film is that Carrie Fisher died and everything is worse for it. Not just in the movie, but in the world. Watching the film try to shoehorn in whatever unused footage they had on the cutting room floor and make her into a central character was painful on a lot of levels. They had to write constantly awkward dialogue in order for her responses to make sense, or, at one point, literally have another character give exposition about what she’s doing. It reminded me of Bela Lugosi’s “performance” in Plan 9 from Outer Space and that bodes well for no one. 

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Life is hard and unfair, but she proved you can get through it anyway.

Another problem for me came from the fact that the film tries to retcon parts of The Last Jedi that people didn’t like, rather than just accept them and move on. Not that there weren’t things in that movie that needed to be addressed and perhaps corrected, but a lot of the stuff could just have been ignored rather than overwritten and seeing that kind of forced correction in a film can get distracting. I mean, they did have to talk about the “Holdo Maneuver” (and WHY EVERYONE WOULDN’T JUST CONSTANTLY USE IT), but the response that it’s just “a one-in-a-million shot” makes Holdo’s actions in the previous movie completely ridiculous. There were a bunch of moments like that where I kept hearing Abrams screaming “F*CK YOU RIAN JOHNSON” through the camera. 

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Which includes a loud incidental “F*ck you” to any characters introduced in TLJ.

The film refuses to explain a lot of things, even by Star Wars standards. (How is Palpatine alive? Why would he broadcast his plans to the rest of the galaxy? How did he get to Exegol? How did he build and staff all of those ships in 30 years? Who developed the technology to destroy a planet with a Star Destroyer? If you had that technology, why not just give it to the First Order? Since when does the Force allow people to teleport stuff? When did Palpatine have a kid and how and why?) Since it’s Star Wars, most of that stuff can be ignored as being a tribute to the series’ origins in Republic Serials, which rarely explained anything, but I do understand why some people might be annoyed by it. 

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Your space throne is cool, but how has no Jedi found it in several millennia?

Also, there are a few weird fanservice moments, like Chewie finally getting a medal, which don’t completely make sense within the movie even if they were sweet.

However, all of those things are offset by all of the things that this movie did well. It gave us some of the best lightsaber battles in the series which weren’t marred by the overused acrobatics of the prequels. It managed to connect more of the franchise together than any previous film (except maybe Solo) by including references to the prequels, original films, spin-offs, cartoons, and of course the current trilogy. It had some great emotional moments and some beautiful shots, as well as the happy ending that we needed.

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Star Wars does sometimes just shoe-horn in stuff for nostalgia and, well, that’s fair.

What it did best was remind us of all the great moments that we’ve had because of Star Wars. This movie finally gave us sequences of the whole current team together after a movie of being constantly split up and reminded us of how well the series always handled personality interplay. That’s been true since watching Obi-Wan, Luke, Han, and even Chewie interact in A New Hope. We got to watch Billy Dee Williams show us what an old Lando who has had some hard times would look like, but we also got to see him bring hope to everyone.  Seeing Han Solo have a real heart-to-heart with his son was beautiful, even if it was clearly supposed to have been Leia’s scene. It’s something that can only work so well because we spent years with these characters and we know how they got to this point. People may complain that some things are just fanservice, but seeing Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson) back behind the controls of an X-Wing is an experience that no other series can really give you, and there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of that to deepen an emotional moment. 

This isn’t the best Star Wars movie, but it did provide me with an experience that no other movie could and I have to give it credit for that.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.