The last time Star Wars attempted to have its own holiday special, it resulted in one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the sci-fi saga. So why is Disney+ even attempting to make another one? Well, thanks to the existence of the LEGO side of Star Wars entertainment, the franchise has the perfect path to have fun with the saga without sullying any of the mythology.
The tongue-in-cheek comedic antics of the LEGO Star Wars animated shorts and video games let the new LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special dig into the history of Star Wars with a delightfully goofy time travel adventure that feels like Avengers: Endgame, Back to the Future, and It’s a Wonderful Life tossed into a blender with a family friendly version of Robot Chicken.
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special finds the heroes of the new Star Wars trilogy getting ready to celebrate Life Day. Right off the bat, the special is made all the more intriguing by the fact that it takes place after the events of The Rise of Skywalker, revealing what Rey and Finn might really be up to if this were an adventure actually set in the canonical Star Wars universe. Rey is teaching Finn how to be more mindful of the Force by letting him use her yellow-bladed lightsaber to practice with a remote training droid.
Finn isn’t doing the best with this training, and Rey (who is voiced by the spectacular Daisy Ridley impersonator Helen Sadler) is having a hard time figuring out how to be a better mentor. So after consulting the Jedi texts, she heads off to a nearby Jedi Temple to get some guidance on how to improve her training methods. It’s there that she finds a mysterious crystal which holds “the key to the galaxy’s past” which is how “a Jedi’s future becomes clear.” Using this crystal, Rey figures out that she must travel to the past to learn more from the likes of Jedi Master Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and others in order to be a more effective teacher.
What begins as a simple lesson from seeing Luke Skywalker get his training on Dagoabah suddenly turns into a time-hopping series of missteps that threatens to undo the entire Star Wars universe. Though Rey makes amusing appearances during pivotal moments in Star Wars history, such as Luke’s heroic run through the Death Star trench in A New Hope, and less memorable scenes such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn waiting to settle a trade dispute in The Phantom Menace, eventually, she creates some trouble as the likes of Darth Vader and tons of other character from different points in the Star Wars timeline start to tumble through time portals with her.
A lot of laughs and wild, impossible crossovers come from her frantically flying through time. Darth Vader meets himself during the Empire’s assault on Hoth, for example. And old and young Han Solo both give Greedo what’s coming to him. There’s also a big lightsaber battle aboard the speeding podracers of Anakin Skywalker and Sebulba, which also careen through various points in time, dragging more and more Star Wars characters with them until there’s a massive assembly of heroes and villains who begin to battle each other in the middle of the Lars homestead on Tatooine, much to the surprise of a young Luke Skywalker drinking little carton of blue milk. Even the upper half of Darth Maul gets in on the action.
The adventure gets a tad more serious when Darth Vader gets his hands on this time traveling crystal, and Emperor Palpatine learns that the future isn’t so bright for him roughly 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. So he brings Kylo Ren from in the middle of The Last Jedi in order to hopefully avoid his failure. The way everything plays out from there has a lot of fun with the climax of Return of the Jedi, including even more lightsaber battles.
If this doesn’t feel like much of a holiday special, don’t worry, there’s plenty of traditional Christmas-like silliness happening back on the Millennium Falcon while Rey is off on this adventure. Poe Dameron is tasked with planning the Life Day party, which includes roast porg (sorry!), gift-giving between friends, and even some music (though it’s nothing nearly as painful or long-winded as the many musical and dance sequences in the original Star Wars holiday special). After all, there has to be something Rey realizes she’s missing out on when she learns her ultimate lesson about friendship.
There’s a lot of childish silliness to be found in the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, but there are also some solid jokes for longtime fans of the franchise. Plus, there are shots that are lifted directly from the movies and recreated with LEGO ships, environments, and minifigures. In particular, a recreation of a squadron of X-wings making their way towards the Death Star and the dive into the trench is most impressive. However, I will say that sometimes it feels like the animation cuts corners by not using enough real LEGO pieces to create the environments, unlike The LEGO Movie, where absolutely everything was assembled with real (digital) LEGO pieces. But even so, there are still some amusing LEGO-inspired gags, such as Rey taking off her entire hairpiece to dump water out of it. Even the new Star Wars production logo that debuted with The Mandalorian is given a LEGO makeover.
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is a huge step above the original travesty that graced television screens in 1978. Not only is it half the length of the original holiday special, but it’s infinitely more enjoyable. In fact, it’s kind of a shame that this will only be available on Disney+, because this is the kind of special that you’d love to stumble upon several times while flipping through the cable guide during the holiday season. At the very least, it’s available to watch over and over again if you have Disney+, and it’s something the kids will enjoy the hell out of while they wait for Life Day to arrive.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10
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