Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s not your typical holiday special, but it may be one to return to each year, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special has arrived, a parody of the franchise starring LEGO Rey as she attempts to find a way to teach Finn to become a Jedi, using information she learns on Life Day–Life Day the holiday first introduced in the original 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, which was a perfect snapshot of what you would expect for a blockbuster movie’s TV tie-in in the 1970s. Disney has used this show as an opportunity to poke fun at itself, at the Star Wars ideas it has created since it bought the franchise from George Lucas, while also poking fun at some of the ideas Lucas created. It’s not just for fans of the third Skywalker trilogy of movies as time travel arrives in the Star Wars universe, allowing Rey to zip back and forth to every corner of the past, meeting all your familiar friends in key scenes from the movies.
The result is a cute, 44-minute show for fans of all ages, with the high quality animation fans of LEGO Star Wars productions are accustomed to. The humor is light-hearted–similar in brand and delivery to “dad jokes.” But sometimes the jokes are deep cuts, striking at the heart of why fans of one-half of the Star Wars galaxy of movies aren’t that fond of the other half (and vice versa). Like Rey coming upon Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn as they await battle droids in The Phantom Menace, with Obi-Wan whining about how bored he is discussing trade disputes (just as many audience members found themselves back then).
Viewers will find lots of references to the absurdity of Emperor Palpatine living forever–slight jabs at the unexpected twist of his return last year in The Rise of Skywalker. And both Kylo Ren and Poe get a chance to show their best emo sides, Kylo as the Captain Kirk of the Star Wars realm, playing the scene sans shirt. There’s even a tip of the hat to the late great Admiral Ackbar, who was killed off unceremoniously in The Last Jedi. But the best of the jokes is a well-timed insertion of the Lucasian word “maclunkey,” a reference to a word spoken by Greedo in a beyond-the-eleventh-hour re-edit of the original Star Wars.
What sells the show is the seemingly limitless, wide-eyed optimism of the Rey character, voiced by Helen Sadler (True Blood). She was precisely the right fit for the lead position in a cast encompassing all the major characters in the franchise. Emperor Palpatine (Trevor Devall) is funny and melodramatic, only lacking the twisted moustache in his over-the-top scheming as the villain of the hour.
Surprisingly, at times the story seems to verge into the actual writers room of the third trilogy, as if some of the justifications for the Emperor moving across time could actually find some traction in Star Wars canon via this story. It seemed possible that Finn would have an interest in becoming a Jedi, but could anyone have predicted that the direction the movies were heading toward would see Rey as Jedi Master and Finn as Padawan?
Listen for the voices of Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and Kelly Marie Tran from the movies, plus a host of familiar voice actors.
It’s the same brand of humor Saturday Night Live featured when Adam Driver was the guest host playing Kylo in Imperial radar technician fatigues in a send-up of Undercover Boss. Just remember: Keep the Porgs away from the Wookiees, and participation trophies for Jedi there are not. You really can’t miss with this new holiday show. Goofy fun for everyone, the animated LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is now streaming on Disney+.