A long time ago in a galaxy very, very close, “Star Wars” made its greatest mistake ever.
No, not “The Rise of Skywalker,” I’m talking about “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” Riding high off the success of “A New Hope,” the franchise followed up its debut with a made-for-TV movie in 1978 that featured the original cast as they celebrate the holiday “Life Day” with Chewbacca’s family. While it did give us at least one good thing – looking at you, Boba Fett – the special was torn apart by both critics and audiences, and has since become somewhat of an urban legend, since it has never been rebroadcast or released on home video.
But as Disney knows, you can always wring a few extra bucks out of some old IP, so why not swap the actors for minifigures and see what happens? The result, “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special,” is light-years better than its predecessor, providing a quick adventure that’s creative, entertaining and an all-around delight.
Set after the events of “The Rise of Skywalker,” the “Holiday Special” gives us our first look at a post-First Order galaxy, and it’s one of peace and celebration! The sequel trilogy’s heroes are reunited to once again celebrate Life Day, but things aren’t going as planned. From the decorations to the buffet, Poe is stressed out as he tries to ensure everything is perfect, meanwhile Rey is struggling to train Finn in the ways of the Force.
In search of an answer to her troubles, Rey turns to the ancient Jedi texts which set her off on a brand new adventure. In order to find a deeper understanding of the Force, Rey must find an ancient artifact at a mysterious Jedi Temple, but it turns out this MacGuffin sends her hurtling through space and time across the “Star Wars” universe.
From the prequels to the sequels, the original trilogy and even “The Mandalorian,” Rey bounces throughout the galaxy’s history learning how to become a better Jedi Master, and along the way, she just might learn the true meaning of the holiday spirit. Awwwwwww.
Like most major franchises tend to at some point, “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” dabbles in time travel, but it ultimately feels more like the “Star Wars” version of “Into The Spider-Verse” than anything else. As Rey crosses over into stories no one ever expected to see her in, audiences are treated to fascinating what-if scenarios capable of transcending the limitations of LEGO bricks.
What makes the “Holiday Special” most successful is its coyness. In typical LEGO fashion, whether through films or video games, the “Star Wars” characters aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves or their source material. From jabs at the snooze fest of political drama that bogs down “The Phantom Menace” to questions about the chances of surviving a fall down an endless reactor shaft, the special tackles the fandom’s biggest gripes with a smile and a wink – sometimes literally into the camera.
While the attempt at a heartwarming holiday message is nothing more than your standard “It was right there all along” bore, that’s not really the point here. “Star Wars” fans will be more than happy to look past that thanks to all of the easter eggs, meta references and genuine laugh out loud moments. The only other complaint here is the fact that it’s just 44 minutes long, whereas the original “Holiday Special” dragged on for 98 minutes. It may technically be considered an animated short, but something this fun could easily support a feature-length runtime.
It may not necessarily get you in the holiday spirit, but “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” has more than enough fun and excitement in store to keep both children and adults alike entertained – and erase any ill will between the franchise and the holidays.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.