We all know one. You might even be one. The fanboy: the person who doesn’t just like something, but goes that extra parsec and lives it. We’ve all seen the Star Wars fans who waited in line for days to catch the midnight premieres, dressed in costumes, living in tents. This is a story about guys even crazier than that, who want to go to George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and steal the print, so their dying buddy can see it before he goes to a galaxy far, far away. Whether you are a fanboy, know one, or just like making fun of them, Fanboys is pretty entertaining just as a buddy road trip movie- the nerd stuff is just gravy.
The saga begins in ’98, a few months before the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, is to be released. Three nerd buddies show up at a Halloween party dressed as Darth Vader and two stormtroopers, like they do every year. When you spend that kind of time and money on a costume, you need to get some mileage out of it. They are Hutch (Dan Fogler, Balls of Fury) who has the Shag Van and lives in his mom’s garage- I mean Carriage House; Windows who runs the town comic book shop (Jay Baruchel, who seems to have parlayed his ability to mimic Chewbacca in Knocked Up into this bigger role), and Linus, who’s got terminal cancer, but hasn’t lost his hair yet. They’re having fun until Linus sees Eric- his old high school buddy who was gonna draw comic books with him until reality dragged him away to Dad’s car dealership.
Eric misses his pals, and seeing them again makes him dread the daily drudgery and his douchey older brother at the dealership even more than usual. So when he hears of Hutch and Windows’ idiotic plan to raid Skywalker Ranch and snag a workprint of the new Star Wars film so Linus can see it before he dies, Eric is lured to the dark side. Windows is cybering with a “girl” in a chatroom who has a contact inside the ranch, so they hatch a plan to sneak in and grab the film. Remember this is ’98, he’s constantly lugging an old Toughbook and looking for phone jacks.

Once they hit the road the laughs are pretty solid, whether it’s Hutch’s Millennium Falconesque ’70s shag-van, their continual war on Trekkies, or the acerbic comments of Zoe (Kristen Bell, “Gossip Girl,” Spartan) the clerk at Windows’ comic book store. She’s the spunky Leia of the film, gone brunette and feisty. Together the gang has solid comic energy between her sharp tongue, Hutch’s perversity, Windows exasperated haplessness, and Eric and Linus as the straight men. Their adventures lead them to a hilarious clash with Jabba the Hutt (Harry Knowles, impersonated perfectly by Ethan Suplee of “My Name is Earl”), a hive of scum and villainy led by Danny Trejo, and a band of Trekkies led by Seth Rogen in one of his more self-effacing roles.
They use their cameos wisely, and don’t lay on the in-jokes too thick- there’s plenty to laugh at if you’re only peripherally aware of Star Wars. I saw it after a foray into NYC Comicon, and the theater was only a few blocks away, so the audience was full of folks who saw a lot of themselves up on the screen. And we all loved it. Just don’t go in expecting a classic- this is somewhere in the big spread between Detroit Rock City and Role Models, and the humor is similar to both. If you’ve been following the sordid tale of the movie’s attempts at re-cutting by the Weinsteins, be assured that this is no Lucas puff piece, and while we never get to see what the fanboys think of The Phantom Menace, they do ponder, “What if it sucks?” But they recall the new hope and anticipation we all had for it, and made a good comedy about it.

3.5 neckbeards out of 5

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Stoner superstar Seth Rogen and potty mouth king Kevin Smith together, with a cast plucked from Apatow, Smith and Office alumni, “Mac guy” Justin Long, ubiqui-cutey Elizabeth Banks, and a plot about two slacker roomies forced to make a porno to pay the rent? Sounds like it should be awesome. And it is for the first two acts, then it sort of peters out- pun intended- but still satisfies. It’s popular to bash Smith, and this isn’t his best movie, but it’s pretty fucking funny for a good while.

I have a love/hate relationship with Kevin Smith’s movies. I loved Clerks, with its unashamed profanity and familiar Jersey slacker culture, but since then Jay & Silent Bob got shoehorned in everything; the movies were good but juvenile, and while I like them I didn’t think he really grew much until Clerks 2 came along. Zack and Miri Make a Porno does feel like Smith meets Apatow, but that’s mostly due to Rogen’s involvement; Banks may not be the best-written female character, but she’s miles ahead of Smith’s usual. So give Z&M a try.

Rogen plays his usual stoner everynerd, a barista at Bean ‘n Gone; he’s Zack, and Miri is Elizabeth Banks (W., The Baxter, The 40-Year Old Virgin) his slacker roommate who’s been buds with him since the first grade. We meet them as they brave the bitter Pittsburgh cold, going to work at their minimum-wage jobs to pay a mountainous stack of bills. Soon the power is turned off, the water too, because Zack would rather buy skates and fleshlights than pay the rent. Actually it’s to Rogen’s credit that he lays on enough charm for us not to wonder why Miri doesn’t just boot his ass out, but I didn’t even think about that until days later.

Zack’s coffee shop pals include the crabby Delaney (Craig Robinson, “The Office” janitor and Apatow alumn) who’s constantly whispering Zen-like epiphanies about the misery of marriage, and the furious boss Mr. Surya (Gerry Bednob, The 40-Year Old Virgin) who is apopleptic over their total lack of work ethic. Delaney steals every scene he’s in, and with Rogen and Banks there that’s fine work. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him in bigger roles, as he’s definitely got the chops to do it on his own. The other scene-stealer is Justin Long, who was tedious in Live Free or Die Hard and wore out his welcome as the Mac Guy, who plays a flaming gay porn star who shows up at Zack & Miri’s high school reunion. He chews just enough scenery and delivers Smith’s dialogue- which is a little less raunchy and more clever this time around- perfectly. When the duo decides to make porn, some Smith regulars file in but are different enough that they don’t make you roll your eyes.

Jason Mewes is back, this time as a crew-cutted porn star wanna-be, and he’s crafted a character far enough from “Jay” to be funny without feeling old; Jeff Anderson (Randall from Clerks) is back as the unlikely cameraman, and wisely plays the straight man. At least Smith doesn’t shit on his old friends. Delaney is on board as the producer, with his hard-earned HDTV money; after a somewhat lame montage of possible porn movie names they decide upon “Star Whores,” and I worried that I’d be watching an hour of lame Star Wars jokes. Smith wisely plays this for a brief laugh before taking the script elsewhere, and manages to craft a hilarious, raunchy second act as they film their ultra-low budget epic.

For a movie about a porno, it manages to be somewhat less gross than Clerks 2 except for one scene, and for being slapped with NC-17 twice it only uses bouncing boobs and dangling wangs purely for comedic value. While the humor is definitely on the raunchy side, this is a lighter side of Smith; he’s learned that shock value is difficult to come by, but he still manages to slip a good one in there. Traci Lords and Katie Morgan are on board for the porn talent, but we never catch the camera leering, which is a good thing. For one lesson the movie will teach you is that there is no free titty. Smith earns his titty with this funny movie, which may not be his best, but is a fresh addition to his portfolio and a sign that he shouldn’t be written off as an aging, potty-mouthed Star Wars & comic book nerd with a camera just yet.

And I’m glad that bad boy Jay Mewes is clean again. He’s from my part of Jersey and I first met him stoned out of his mind, and know a lot of his old crew never made it out of heroin hell. Others have cleaned up their act quicker than he has, but the Hollywood temptations of easy access to your poison has to be hard. He plays his wanna-be porn star like a German-accented crazy nudist and is hard to recognize as “Jay,” which is a good thing. Apparently the “accent” is a lisp from dental surgery according to IMDb, but it’s still funny.

3 out of 4 titties. (Shave and a haircut, two bits- I saw a lady with three tits)

Zack and Miri Make a Porno redband trailer

I have a love and hate relationship with Kevin Smith’s movies- I loved Clerks, which was fresh and new. But like Tim Burton’s films, everything he’s made since has the fingerprints visible in the clay- I can see his quirks too easily. He’s really not good at writing female characters or getting a great performance out of a woman, for example. And I was hoping his Star Wars fanboyism would finally be left behind, but listen to the name of the porno they’re making. It’s not even funny.

This one doesn’t feel like a Kevin Smith movie in many ways, which is a good thing. It has a very different cast, and apparently is not set in the “View Askewniverse,” so at least Jay and Silent Bob won’t show up, and Jeff “Randal” Anderson will be playing a different character. Besides Seth Rogan as Zack and Elizabeth Banks as Miri, it’s got “the Mac Guy,” and some dude from the Office, and it has a mild comedic energy more reminiscent of an Apatow comedy than a manic Kevin Smith profanity festival. My only caveat is that it seems to think it’s a lot more shocking than it is, probably to sate the MPAA– it originally got an NC-17, but won an R on appeal.