Disney+ review: The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special
Ivan Radford | On 20, Dec 2020
For any Star Wars fans, the words “holiday special” are enough to trigger flashbacks to Harrison Ford hugging a tiny would-be Wookiee (Chewbacca’s son) and exclaiming: “Lumpy!” The 1978 one-off TV variety show has never been officially released on home video since, and there’s no wondering why – it’s an atrociously embarrassing affair, with awkward acting, long-winded dance segments and other things that have nothing to do with Star Wars. The only reason to watch it, apart from for the sheer cringe factor is the animation that includes Boba Fett before his live-action debut in the big screen franchise.
Fast forward to 2020 and the words “holiday special” are risky ones to bring into the middle of Lucasfilm’s (now Disney’s) lucrative Star Wars franchise, just as The Mandalorian has teed up a new era for the ever-expanding universe. Fortunately, they also come with another word attached: LEGO. And anyone who has played a LEGO Star Wars video game – or seen The LEGO Movie – will be aware of the playful silliness that the interlocking yellow bricks bring to the table.
The 50-minute animated adventure doesn’t disappoint on that front, balancing some nostalgic fan service (Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels are among the voice cast) with a surreal post-modern set-up: set after Episode IX, it sees Rey (Helen Sadler) doubt her abilities as Finn’s (Omar Miller) teacher, leading her to a temple and – thanks to the discovery of a time key – a fast-paced journey hopping through key events of Star Wars past. That means disrupting events on Hoth, doubling up on Darth Vader and almost rewriting the events of Episode VI’s climactic lightsaber battle. All the while, Finn, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Poe (Jake Green) get ready for a party to celebrate Life Day.
The fact that this special gives Rose more screentime than Episode IX tells you all you need to know about where the outing sits in the canon, and it’s nice to see sidelined characters get a more fitting send-off, from Rose to Finn’s Force-sensitive skills. But David Shayne’s script also has enough irreverence to stop the serious sentiment of the Thanksgiving-esque event getting too saccharine – a deceptively tricky balance that manages to be ironic (the original Star Wars Holiday Special is among the targets lampooned) and affectionate. There’s even a bit of Mando-related fun in there for good measure. Crucially, though, director Ken Cunningham keeps the pace set to warp speed throughout, ensuring that this slice of seasonal silliness stays short and sweet.
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.