‘The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special’ Review: The Force is Merry With This One

Joseph Braverman reviews The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, a Disney+ release that makes the jump to light speed in the right direction.
User Rating: 6

Hoping to erase memories of the disastrous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special (broadcast on CBS), The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special celebrates “Life Day” by revisiting some of the franchise’s “Greatest Hits.” What is this sacred festivity, you ask? Unlike C-3PO, I’ll give you the abridged version: Life Day is a commemoration of the living ecosystem on the planet Kashyyyk, home of the Wookies. The furry bipedal species takes it a step further by honoring those among them who passed on to become one with the Force, as well as those still a part of its living energy. Because of its popularity, the holiday is now celebrated in all quadrants of the galaxy. Think of it like our own annual “Earth Day,” except with the same festive fervor of Christmas.

Pandemic or not, everyone could use new Star Wars content during this time of year. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with many of us unable to gather with our loved ones in person, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special marks the perfect opportunity to utilize the GroupWatch feature on Disney Plus. Hearing Lego versions of C-3PO, Rose Tico, and Lando Calrissian voiced by their role originators Anthony DanielsKelly Marie Tran, and Billy Dee Williams brings nostalgic joy. Moreover, without a new live-action Star Wars movie to continue the adventures of Rey, Finn, and Poe, this is our closest glimpse at a post-Rise of Skywalker timeline. Thankfully, none of what we witness is officially part of the Star Wars canon.

Despite vanquishing Palpatine (again), Rey (Helen Sadler) continues to doubt her abilities. David Shayne’s script disservices her character even more than J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio did, all but forgetting a finished arc that left Rey embracing her worthiness among icons. Without allowing Finn (Omar Miller) the opportunity to fail before he can succeed as a promising Jedi pupil, Rey automatically blames herself for his training shortcomings. She is convinced that traveling back in time to observe the ancient Jedi Masters of legend (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, Yoda, etc.) will legitimatize her teaching credentials.

Everyone else, including the audience at home, just wants to party on the Millennium Falcon. This is especially true of Poe Dameron (Jake Green), who is ready to burst into song, dance, and histrionics. It’s hilarious watching Poe fight off waterworks whenever he’s faced with a sentimental moment. One thing this holiday special regrettably shares with the original piece of junk is its presentation of the Wookies. Why is Chewbacca’s family so obnoxious and annoying? They contribute nothing except to aggrandize themselves as the loudest in the room, plus they always find a way to keep our favorite copilot from the action.

In the meantime, Rey embarks on a leap of quantum proportions. Reading through the ancient Jedi texts — when a Holocron might have worked faster (why use dialup when you have broadband access?) — leads her to an abandoned Jedi Temple on a distant planet. There, she discovers a device that opens up portals to the past and future. Ignoring BB-8’s cries of protest, Rey dives headlong into a time reel of the saga’s most important battles and confrontations. Providing her own “certain point of view,” Rey almost destroys the space-time continuum when a few familiar faces cross into events they shouldn’t be seeing.

Other than watching Palpatine (Trevor Devall) act peevish and petulant, much of the laughter comes from sidebar gags instead of the expected narrative hijinks. While it’s nice to revisit some famous scenes of old, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is largely derivative, often too afraid to anger the fanbase more than the sequel trilogy already has. Rather than stand by the creative decisions in Rise of Skywalker, the juvenile romp pokes fun at its mishaps by parroting online dissension. Instead of spending seventy-five percent of the time in locales and events already retreaded to death, why not use that duration to justify Episode IX’s ill-advised narrative twists? Only two of these trips down memory hyperlane are worth the headache: one contains a cameo that reiterates Disney’s best Star Wars entity; the other features a surprising gay character reveal that will leave fans howling in absolute pleasure.

Ultimately, the Force is mediocre with The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special. Its frivolity might satisfy youngsters and forgiving diehards, but not for the rest of us expecting lore durability. When nothing is of consequence, then the humor has to be clever and uproarious enough to offset a useless plot. Sadly, Shayne’s screenplay employs predictable puns and fan-service encounters to force amusement. The beloved saga operates at its best when it drowns out the noise of angry demand and whips together something original yet brand-cognizant.

The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is now streaming on Disney+

Written by
Joseph Braverman is a 31-year-old film school alum from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. He considers himself one of the biggest Star Wars fans in the galaxy, living by a golden rule that there is no such thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie. Joseph lives in Los Angeles, CA, and enmeshes himself in all things entertainment, though he’ll occasionally take a break from screen consumption to hike in Malibu or embark on new foodie explorations. Vehemently opposed to genre bias, he feels strongly that any good film is worthy of Oscar consideration. Joseph is also a proud member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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