About halfway through Fanboys, a group of Star Wars geeks decides to make a detour during their road trip. Or, one of the boys does. As they make their way to Texas to retrieve secret plans to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch (the year is 1998 and the quartet plan to break in to the compound to steal a rough cut of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace), Hutch (Dan Fogler) can’t resist the opportunity to pester some “Trekkies” at the fictional birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk in rural Iowa.
Soon enough, Hutch, along with pals Eric (Sam Huntington), Linus (Chris Marquette), and Windows (Jay Baruchel) find themselves trading beef with costumed “Trekkies,” or “Trekkers” as “Admiral Seasholtz” (Seth Rogan, in one of the film’s several cameos) corrects them. The two sides square off over which characters in which franchise could kick the others’ asses. The verbal sparring quickly escalates into a scrappy nerdy brawl when Seasholtz calls Han Solo a “bitch.” Windows, about to get a whoopin’, tries to call a “time out,” and Linus dispatches the Spock-wannabe (Thom Bishops) by biting off a pointy prosthetic ear.
Fanboys traffics throughout in a litany of such stereotypes of sci-fi geekdom. “No one calls Han Solo a bitch!” is something of a war cry for Hutch in particular, and he is forever ready to protect the virtue of his hero. The other boys agree, with Linus arguing at one point that Harrison Ford is the best actor ever and that the star has never made a bad movie, while in the background the boys pass a poster for the Ford/Anne Heche disaster, Six Days, Seven Nights.
That the boys are so earnest in their dedication to the Star Wars oeuvre signals their stunted adolescence. Three years past their high school graduation, the group still hangs around at house parties, dresses up for Halloween like Darth Vader and Imperial Stormtroopers, and at least one of them still lives in his mom’s garage (Hutch insists it’s a “carriage house”).
Of course, the pals are also befuddled by girls. Dick jokes abound, of course, including banter about who named his right hand “Princess Leia” in high school. Windows is supremely clueless (Hutch insists Windows’ internet girlfriend, Rogue Leader (Allie Grant), is really “a dude”). Yet the real marker of his ineptitude is Windows’ inability to see the value of the alterna-girl right in front of him. Zoe (Kristin Bell, totally slumming) is as obsessive about Star Wars as the fanboys, works alongside them in the local comic shop, and is a hot babe to boot. The “lesson” of Windows’ road trip, then, is to fall in love with Zoe, always right in front of him. Urgh.
The addition of this lame-ass coming-of-age romance to the hackneyed humor makes Fanboys more than a little tedious. Wrapping it up is the on-the-road scene in which the boys’ van breaks down, they walk to the nearest bar to find help, discover said bar to be filled with rough looking biker dudes, only to discover that… it’s a gay bar! Really? Isn’t it time to retire the “joke” about the straight guys who walk into a gay biker bar? Or the “surprise” that gay men might be roughneck thugs?
Fanboys’ staleness is, for its target audience, ultimately irrelevant. This is attested to by the spoofing of sci-fi fan stereotypes—a cautious, gentle needling rather than pointed satire. As the boys sit in front of a movie screen at the end of the film, finally about to experience The Phantom Menace, Eric ponders, “What if the movie sucks?” It does, of course, but to diehard fans, the cinematic or narrative merits doesn’t matter. And neither will the lack of originality of Fanboys, a love-note to the dedication of genre fans and a testament to their box-office power. If you are not already a “Trekker,” a Star Wars aficionado or sci-fi geek of whatever stripe, Fanboys may leave you as perplexed as if you were a fanboy gaping at a girl.