Review: Fanboys

The fans have spoken: In response to pressure from the online community, the cancer subplot prevails in "Fanboys," a raunchy, rough-around-the-edges comedy about five "Star Wars" nuts who fulfill a childhood pact by breaking into Skywalker Ranch for an early look at "Episode I." It's a qualified victory for a project with nearly as many alternate edits as "Blade Runner," since the version set to open in September may satisfy the peanut gallery and preserve director Kyle Newman's vision, but exploits a less-than-solid storytelling device. Still, the resulting publicity should attract a decent geek-centric audience.

Over the course of its topsy-turvy production, "Fanboys" has become as much a cause as an actual film, an offscreen David-vs.-Goliath story pitting a handful of amateur filmmakers against the reshoot-inclined Weinstein Co. End result feels like an uneven cross between an amateur "Project Greenlight" pic and such recent comedies as "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express," in which indie directors brought a certain edge to material that might once have felt more at home under the National Lampoon label.

"Fanboys" fits squarely into the zany road-trip category, briskly introducing the five key characters while setting their Ohio-to-California pilgrimage in motion: Eric (Sam Huntington) doesn't have the nerve to tell his car-dealing dad that he wants to ditch the family business and draw comicbooks; loudmouth Hutch (Dan Fogler) hopes to move out of his mother's carriage house; socially awkward Windows (Jay Baruchel) can't wait to meet an online girlfriend who calls herself "Rogue Leader"; tomboy goddess Zoe (Kristen Bell) can't seem to get her soulmate's attention; and terminally ill Linus (Christopher Marquette) is living with the possibility that he may not be around when "The Phantom Menace" opens.

With Linus' death hanging over their heads, the friends hit the road in Hutch's old van, which he has customized with such features as a nitrous oxide tank (for those unexpected jumps to light speed) and a roof-mounted R2-D2 model. The gang's plan sends them ping-ponging all over the country, first to Iowa, where they pick a fight with a group of "Star Trek" fans led by a barely recognizable Seth Rogen, then south to Austin, Texas, where uber-fanboy Harry Knowles (played by "My Name Is Earl's" Ethan Suplee) roughs them up a bit, then to Vegas to meet a man with blueprints to Skywalker Ranch.

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