The Star Wars Holiday Special stands as a forgotten relic, a TV event mainly regarded for its innate campiness over any positive qualities (if you want to witness the bizarre cringe-fest, it’s on YouTube). Considering its now-infamous history, few could imagine the possibility of Star Wars going back to the holiday well. That’s where Disney comes in, releasing a new The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special on their Disney+ platform. While it likely won’t become a holiday staple, this warmly nostalgic celebration of Star Wars lore makes for an amusing fan-service experience.
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special follows Rey, who leaves her friends on Life Day to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure, with Rey acquainting herself with several of her Jedi forefathers. Will she make it back in time for Life Day?
Similar to the beloved video game series, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special meshes the best elements of its iconic brands. The blocky animation style allows director Ken Cunningham to inject humorous pratfall gags at every turn, often twisting iconic story beats from the franchise with a clever slapstick glow. I was also surprised to see just how meta David Shayne’s screenplay gets, appealing more to diehard fans than its target younger audience through a countless array of self-referential moments (the Obi-Wan “hello there” jokes had me rolling with laughter). The loving fan service is crafted with enough brains to strike a sincere chord.
As shocking as this is to say, the Holiday Special presents a more cohesive narrative than last year’s feature entry Rise of Skywalker (although that may be damning with faint praise). Shayne’s script ties together the universe’s massive cast of characters, giving most of them a moment or two to leave a strong impression onscreen. The narrative crux of Rey’s personal journey as a Jedi Master weaves in nicely with the busy narrative framework, with Shayne effectively tying her journey in with the franchise’s familiar themes of self-acceptance and empathy. Where Rise spun a web of threads that never truly got untangled, it’s refreshing to see this special’s assurance in creating a cohesive tale.
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special rarely strikes a dull chord, but the quaint special has a relatively modest ceiling. While its good-willed messages are delivered in earnest, their skin-deep impact leaves a certain level of hollowness. This special lacks the kind of Yuletide emotive streak that makes specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Charlie Brown’s Christmas holiday staples. I was also taken aback by the inconsistency of the voice acting. While some characters are well-portrayed (Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams reprise their respective roles), others seem wildly off from their big-screen counterparts (it took me a while to realize Jake Green was voicing Poe Dameron).
Despite its limitations, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special makes for an affectionate Christmas diversion. I would recommend this, particularly for diehard fans, as those less aquatinted with the brand might not appreciate the special’s humorous, self-aware streak.
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