We're going to start right off with a SPOILER ALERT! Skip to paragraph three if you don't want to know about some surprises in movies you should have seen by now anyway :)
A word here about the celebrity cameo. When done well, the celebrity or in-joke cameo can add great spice to the mix. Think of Sean Connery in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," Robert Downey Jr. in "The Incredible Hulk," or even Will Ferrell in "The Wedding Crashers. First there's the jolt of recognition, then a knowing chuckle as you nudge the person next to you, who says either, "Holy shit, it's Sean Connery!" or, "I don't know you and if you nudge me again, I'm going to hurt you."
In the long-delayed (two years on the shelf) "Fanboys," there are myriad celebrity cameos. Actors who are barely recognizable under the makeup, famous faces from long-ago movies, characters from other movies, and one icon who plays himself, as he's pretty much been doing his whole career. You almost expect little pop-up graphics to alert us to the next one. The problem with these cameos is they're all about the moment of surprise, with no payoff. It's one thing to get Actor A to reprise his role from a popular film, or Actress B to make an appearance that plays off an iconic role she had some 30 years ago----but then what? Just getting the performers to show up isn't enough.
That's just one of the problems with "Fanboys" a perfectly inoffensive but mostly lame little road trip movie set in 1999, just before the release of the long-awaited "Star Wars: Episode One." Four "Star Wars" geeks from the Midwest, now out of high school and struggling to make it in the real world, decide to execute their childhood plan of road-tripping across the country to Marin County, where they'll break into the Skywalker Ranch and steal a print of "The Phantom Menace" so they can see it before anyone else. Ah, remember those long-ago days when there was such anticipation for that film? And then everyone saw it, and posses formed to hunt down Jar-Jar Binks and kill him.
The four actors playing the leads look like the offspring of the cast of "Revenge of the Nerds." The most recognizable is Dan Fogler of "Good Luck Chuck" and "Balls of Fury." He's like Jack Black with more hair and less talent. Much less talent, from what I've seen of his work so far. Joining the boys mid-journey is Kristin Bell, who is cute as hell and digs "Star Wars" as much as the boys, and if you think there's a love story brewing there somewhere, congratulations.
Director Kyle Newman and the team of at least four screenwriters also give us a subplot about one of the main characters facing a terminal disease. I guess that's supposed to get us more involved with the story----but it's hard to feel any emotional attachment to the characters when they're engaging in slapstick that includes a brawl with Trekkers in Iowa, a pointless and unfunny encounter with"Harry Knowles" in Texas, and a Vegas adventure involving two hookers, a "Star Trek" convention (thought we'd already exhausted that joke), and Seth Rogen in the second of two roles he has in this film, neither of them very funny.
When the gang finally makes it to the Skywalker Ranch, all semblance of comedic plausibility is tossed out the window, and the payoff is just maudlin.
My guess is dozens, if not hundreds, of screenplays have been written by fanboys about fanboys and their world. No doubt there's a smart and funny movie waiting to be made about the people who dress up as Darth Nihilus at Comic-Con, can recite dialogue from the X-men movies verbatim and are counting down the days to the release of "Watchmen."
This is not that movie.