No Chip Off The Old Blockbuster

The Yoda-toon in the for-fans-only
The Yoda-toon in the for-fans-only "Clone Wars."
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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 15, 2008

The world may not want or need another Anakin Skywalker movie, especially one that looks as if it's not quite a cartoon, not quite a Christmas special and not quite something panoramically painted on the side of a van. But there's always room for another stoner movie, and I think Lucasfilm and Warner Bros. might want to market "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" as such, especially in this, the summer of stoner movies.

People attuned to the Clone Wars need to be high on something -- high on being a lifelong devotee of "Star Wars" (hey, I'm a lapsed but curious fanboy myself), or at least high on the hope that "Star Wars" is salvageable. Sadly, this one shucks off all remaining pretense that "Star Wars" has (or had) universal appeal, and instead unfolds with all the majesty and emptiness of watching someone else play a video game. The ossification of "Star Wars" continues with this sub-chapter (appendix? owner's manual?) of the cynically plundered saga.

It's unsettling to begin with the Warner Bros. logo instead of Twentieth Century Fox's fanfare logo, but hey, it's a bottom-line galaxy, after all, in which George Lucas has directed his minions (among them director Dave Filoni) to march forth and make money however possible. Although Filoni's team of animators pulls off several lovely but fleeting moments of inventive style and rich colors, we are right back in the fog of war from the first frame. It's like having to retake a multiple-choice test in a history class you flunked: the Sith, the Jedi council, the chancellor, the separatists, the Old Republic, the senate, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Trade Federation. The what? The hunh?

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (the celebrity voices are impersonated) are in the midst of the great and pointless Clone Wars, which take place between the live-action "Star Wars" movies that came out in 2002 and 2005. In those films, everyone talked on and on about the Clone Wars but hardly fought in them, sort of like an op-ed page with a lot of Henry Kissinger on it. The war, don'cha know, was rigged by the evil Chancellor Palpatine as a distraction so that he could finally declare himself Galactic Emperor and begin his tyrannical rule.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" is less talk and a little more rock, and it's for people who really need to see all that, right down to its redundant title. It doesn't even bother with the helpful three paragraphs of space-crawl exposition that opened the live-action films. We get right to the war, in battles that all transpire on a Mixed-Use Planet Condo, or on Planet Phallic Symbol. (You never saw so many sex toyesque shapes, mountains, buildings and objects in the background of a sci-fi movie, which is saying something.)

Zap! Ka-chow! What's! Boom! Happening? But wait! Now Yoda has ordered our heroes, accompanied by their inappropriately dressed teenage Jedi intern, Ahsoka, to help rescue the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hutt.

That's right -- there's a widdle, wiggly Baby the Hutt. The bad guys (remember Count Dooku?) have kidnapped Jabba Jr., but are trying to make mafia-man Jabba Sr. believe that the kidnapping is part of a Jedi plot. That way, see, the Hutt clan will restrict the hyperspace traffic lanes that cross their territory and . . . well, anyhow, it matters, and Anakin needs to find that baby!

Meanwhile, there's a Clone War to fight (more dildos), and a dashing young padawan film critic must desperately discover the audience for whom this movie exists. Most children I know will be bored senseless by it, but likely hypnotized by all the colors and guns. Most casual "Star Wars" fans have moved on, sensing this movie for what it is: a toy catalogue for grown-up collectors.

While I puzzle it out, the characters in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" spend a lot of time calling one another on their hologram cellphones: Obi-Wan calls Yoda. A clonetrooper calls Obi-Wan and then calls Anakin, and then Anakin calls Obi-Wan. The chief battle droid calls some lady assassin named Asajj Ventress, and then she calls Count Dooku, and then he calls Jabba the Hutt. Is it a "Star Wars" movie or "Mean Girls"? (Holo-atchya!)

Near the end, the mystery of who really kidnapped Baby the Hutt leads to a nightclub owned by his uncle, Truman Capote the Hutt. It's a sad day for "Star Wars" when the most inspired thing in the galaxy is a lazy gay stereotype -- not counting C-3PO.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (98 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG for violence, hookah smoking and a dangerous level of "Star Wars" trivia.

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