The 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special was the stuff of WTF TV legend almost as soon as it aired. In the age where everything got a holiday special of some sort, it seemed a no-brainer to enlist the newly minted space sensation for the tradition. But it wound up a semi-cursed endeavor. Bootlegs circulated for years, but with the dawn of YouTube, it became easier and easier to see. Why we all wanted to see Harvey Korman in drag doing a space cooking show is anyone’s guess. Now over 40 years later, Disney+ has unveiled The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s somehow still weird, but not weird enough to be magical.
While the success of the movies Disney made in the Star Wars universe is the stuff of internet debate everywhere, the TV work—Resistance aside—has met with overwhelming praise. Even true of something as seemingly kitschy as LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. That melded animated children’s fare with the longstanding partnership between Lucasfilm and LEGO. There is a sense of humor about the Star Wars universe at work in the LEGO show; I really hoped that would carry over into the new holiday special. But it’s too overstuffed and the tone too much of a whiplash.
Following the fall of the First Order, the Resistance heroes get ready for Life Day. Rey doubts her ability to train Finn in the ways of the Jedi; Poe just wants everyone to secure the best celebration possible. In an effort to strengthen her teaching skills, Rey and BB-8 head to an ancient Jedi temple (or cave, or whatever). There they find an old relic that opens up portals to the past so she can see how past Force-users did it. Really, of course, this is just an excuse for her to pop in and out of various scenes from the previous nine films, except with LEGO (and funnier).
This is where the special really diverges into two separate entities. One is a humorous parody of familiar moments and characters from the Skywalker Saga (sorry, Rogue One and Solo fans). The other attempts to have a message about finding the true spirit of the holidays and learning a lesson. It never fully jibes, not least because while there are plenty of in-jokes for fans of the franchise, they lack the third-party incisiveness of Robot Chicken.
Which is not to say there’s no fun to be had. The voice cast from The Clone Wars reprise their roles whenever the prequels pop up, which is a delight. Mishaps lead to many different versions of heroes and villains winding up in the same space at the same time, leading to some fun meta humor. But the real “stars” of the special end up being Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and Kylo Ren. The villains are full of buffoonery from beginning to end. They spend most of the final act bickering with each other and trying to parse out the overly complicated history of lineage in the movies. Luckily they leave out just about all mention of Palpatine and Rey’s kinship.
The special is only 45 minutes long, but it feels so much longer. Rather than just take form as a fun, sublimely silly love letter to the series, it tries to continue Rey’s journey (she even has her yellow lightsaber) and give her time to reflect on how she’s treated Finn. It really doesn’t work for me.
Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Daniels (of course) reprise their roles from the films, but they don’t do a ton in either the humor or the heart arena. I think as a Star Wars-y diversion, it’s perfectly passable, but I doubt it’ll become the annual holiday tradition that other animated specials, and indeed the original Star Wars Holiday Special, are.
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special arrives on Disney+ Tuesday, November 17.
Featured Image: Disney+
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