Disney+'s 'Lego Star Wars Holiday Special,' unlike its 1978 predecessor, plays it safe with the kitsch
More than 40 years after the infamous “Star Wars” holiday special, a new one’s blasting onto Disney+ with plenty of Force, but not so much kitsch.
Of course, your galactic mileage may vary when it comes to absolute goofiness. The 1978 special, which aired on CBS 18 months after the first film in the hit franchise was released, offered appearances by Beatrice Arthur, Jefferson Starship and cringe-y, out-there delights that probably still haunt "Star Wars" creator George Lucas’ nightmares.
Comparatively, “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” (now streaming) plays it more straightforwardly: It's a 47-minute greatest-hits package featuring iconic moments, favorite characters from the movies (and the new Disney+ series “The Mandalorian”) and animated building blocks, woven together with elements of “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future.”
In addition to doling out seasonal cheer and ugly sweaters, the new special puts a much better cherry on top of the Skywalker saga than last year’s underwhelming “The Rise of Skywalker.”
'Star Wars':New Disney+ Lego holiday special pays homage to its 1978 predecessor
Narrated by Yoda, this epilogue of sorts catches up with Finn, Rey, Poe Dameron and the Resistance good guys after the fall of the First Order as they prepare for Life Day, the “Star Wars” holiday of family and friendship introduced in the original retrotastic special, which aired 42 years to the day before the latest one. Rey is training Finn how to be a Jedi but struggling with her confidence as a teacher, while Poe is in festive mode aboard the Millennium Falcon, stressing out about the holiday party he’s readying for the gang and Chewbacca’s visiting family (a fun holdover from the ‘70s event).
Rey finds out there’s an old temple that might be her best bet to learn how to be an ace Jedi master. And before she can enjoy all things Life Day, she and droid pal BB-8 find an artifact that lets them time-travel to various periods in “Star Wars” history. Rey totally fan-girls out watching how Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi taught their apprentices back in the day, but when Darth Vader follows her through time and space, chaos and hijinks ensue, and legendary personalities meet for the first time.
The ’78 special starred Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, and the Lego cartoon has some star power as well, with Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico) and OG “Star Wars” cast member Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) voicing their movie roles. The new special also takes time to poke fun at “Star Wars” itself, with one-liners, puns, Easter-egg references and a scene-stealing Emperor Palpatine, the ultimate villain who garners a Mel Brooks-style makeover. There’s also an appearance from Baby Yoda, because Disney’s not going to waste a chance to promote its latest marketing bonanza.
Bonkers:Remembering that infamously bad 'Star Wars' holiday special, 40 years later
Mickey Mouse’s favorite streaming service would never unleash something as completely weird as the first holiday special, the one-of-a-kind pop-culture mishap where a cross-dressing Harvey Korman played a four-armed, “Star Wars”-y alien Julia Child preparing a meal with Bantha meat, and Diahann Carroll sang in a Wookiee fantasy sequence.
After four decades of films, books, toys, Underoos and mainstream merchandising, we’re unlikely to see anything so memorably bonkers ever again. That said, a shirtless Lego Kylo Ren played for laughs isn’t the worst Christmas gift.