Lego Star Wars Summer Vacation

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Kelly Marie Tran, Helen Sadler, Matt Lannter, Matt Sloan, Omar Benson Miller, Ross Marquand, Shelby Young, Thomas Lennon, Trevor Devall.

The “Lego Star Wars” animated specials have the uncanny ability to both parody the brand while telling interesting tales set within it, and Summer Vacation is no exception.

The core story finds the sequel-era characters getting together for a trip to the starship Halcyon — a bit of brand synergy that ties into Walt Disney World’s new immersive “Star Wars” hotel role-play experience. Set following the events of Rise of Skywalker, the special focuses on Finn’s worries that the group won’t be together much longer as they have separate destinies to fulfill — a premise that makes good use of the “family” theme introduced by John Williams in the last film.

Despite his efforts to organize group activities on the ship, they get split up, prompting Finn to sulk at the bar where he is encountered by the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who tells him of a time he helped a Rebel spy infiltrate Jabba’s palace by singing Karaoke at one of the Hutt lord’s parties.

Next, the ghost of Anakin Skywalker recalls a trip to the tropical beaches of Scarif (the planet from the end of Rogue One), where the Emperor insisted on winning several contests for the beachgoers due to his obsession with ruling everything.

Finally, the ghost of Leia tells of a family vacation to Endor where young Ben Solo tried to impress a girl by letting her friends steal the Millennium Falcon.

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The sight gags mostly work, but the strength of the show is in staying true to the essence of the characters, which results in some unexpected moments of sentimentality. The portrayal of the Emperor-Vader relationship is the most over-the-top, straying closer to “Robot Chicken” territory as Palpatine acts like Cobra Commander in his obnoxious quest to dominate everything.

Another highlight is the voice cameo of “Weird Al” Yankovic as the beach party MC singing “Scarif Beach Party.” This lets Al add on to his oeuvre of “Star Wars” songs that previously included “Yoda” and “The Saga Begins.”

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The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of Helen Sadler, Omar Benson Miller, Jake Green, Eric Bauza, A.J. LoCascio, Matt Sloan, Trevor Devall, Matt Lanter, Tom Kane, Matthew Wood, Dee Bradley Baker, James Arnold Taylor, Grey Griffin, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams.

To say the “Star Wars” franchise hasn’t had the best of luck with holiday specials would be an understatement.

In 1978, a year and a half after the release of the first “Star Wars” film, CBS aired the original Star Wars Holiday Special for its one and only time Nov. 17. Seizing on the continued excitement surrounding the first movie and anticipation of a sequel, the special re-united the original cast, and was so notoriously awful, with cheap production values and a dreadful variety show format, that “Star Wars” creator George Lucas once wished for every copy to be burned.

In the ensuing years, it was distributed solely through bootleg VHS and DVD copies, shared from one fan to the next and achieving a certain cult status before the Internet made it more readily viewable for everyone.

The story involved Han, Luke, Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 helping Chewbacca return to his home planet to be with his family for Life Day, the “Star Wars” equivalent of Christmas, while avoiding Darth Vader’s efforts to capture them. While a series of notable guest stars popped in for jaw-droppingly bad musical numbers, the special’s most significant claim to fame was an animated segment that served as the introduction of Boba Fett before his appearance in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back.

While much of the special is no longer considered canonical, many elements from it have been reintroduced into “Star Wars” lore over the years, particularly and most recently through references in “The Mandalorian.”

Fans have certainly embraced the concept of Life Day, celebrated the unofficial “Star Wars” holiday every year on Nov. 17. Fittingly, then, and with a healthy sense of humor, Disney+ presented the franchise’s second holiday special on that very day, and this time the results are much more favorable.

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Instead of repeating the mistake of the first special and presenting it as a sequel to the first movie, the new one uses the animation style and sensibilities of the “Lego Star Wars” world, making it more of an homage to “Star Wars” than a continuation of it. Filtering the special through the “Lego” lens gives “Star Wars” fans a chance to enjoy a lighthearted, yet still heartfelt, poke at their favorite franchise.

Picking up after the events of Rise of Skywalker, the story finds Rey doubting her ability to train a new generation of Jedi. While her friends prepare the Millennium Falcon to celebrate Life Day with Chewie’s family, Rey consults the ancient Jedi texts and learns of a temple that offers a key to the insight she seeks, but is accessible only once a year on the holiday. While the Life Day celebration begins to spin out of control, Rey journeys to the temple and finds the key opens a doorway through space and time, allowing her to visit significant moments in “Star Wars” history, a trip that descends into chaos when the characters of the various eras begin to interact.

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The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special crams a lot of gags into its 44-minute running time, drawing inspiration from the entire 43-year history of the franchise and putting the characters in fun but absurd situations that, because its Lego, doesn’t detract from actual canon.

It has all the “anything goes” feeling of kids playing with their “Star Wars” toys waiting for Christmas dinner, and with letting imagination run wild definitely makes for a winning combination.