Star Wars fans have a complicated relationship with the idea of a holiday special.
On the one hand, the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special was so bad it was never broadcast again, and everyone from George Lucas to Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, have suggested it was the worst project to ever come out of the Star Wars franchise. On the other hand, the much-maligned special featured the debut of bounty hunter Boba Fett, and without Boba Fett, there’s no The Mandalorian (and without him, there’s no Baby Yoda).
Fortunately, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is a lot less complicated emotionally — and a lot easier to love.
Premiering November 17 on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is an animated feature set after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that has Rey, Finn, and the rest of the sequel trilogy’s main characters preparing to celebrate Life Day, the annual Christmas-like holiday observed by Chewbacca and his fellow Wookiees that was first introduced in the 1978 special. As her friends organize a Life Day party, Rey sets out to learn more about Jedi mentors of the past, and soon finds herself on a timeline-hopping journey through the Star Wars franchise.
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special brings back a host of Star Wars cast members from all three trilogies of films to voice their Lego counterparts, and the film — which clocks in at a compact 45 minutes — offers a surprisingly entertaining story for both young and old fans alike. In many ways, it’s exactly the sort of silly adventure soaked in Star Wars nostalgia that we could all use right now.
Directed by Ken Cunningham (Lego Jurassic World: Legend of Isla Nublar) from a script penned by Ninjago and Lego Jurassic World writer David Shayne, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special channels much of what has made Lego’s parody projects so successful, from feature-length films like The Lego Batman Movie to a multitude of Lego-based video game franchises. And at a time when Star Wars fandom has been plagued by toxic fans and far-too-serious debates about whether Baby Yoda’s recent actions qualify as genocide, the canon-twisting irreverence of The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special feels particularly necessary.
Without venturing into spoiler territory, the plot of The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special has Rey (voiced by veteran Star Wars voice actress Helen Sadler rather than the sequel trilogy’s Daisy Ridley) seek out knowledge of how Jedi masters trained their students in the past in order to better her own training of Finn in the ways of The Force. Her quest sends her on a journey through some of the key moments in the franchise’s timeline, from Qui-Gon Jinn’s lessons taught to Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel trilogy to Kylo Ren’s own harsh tutelage under Supreme Leader Snoke in the sequel films. Her journey culminates in a series of encounters that bring characters from the entire Skywalker saga together, often including multiple versions of the same character from various points in his or her timeline.
And because it’s a holiday special, all of this happens while Finn, Poe Dameron, Rose Tico, Chewbacca, and various other characters experience their own misadventures in an attempt to host the perfect Life Day, with everyone ultimately learning a valuable lesson about the true meaning of the holiday by the end of the tale.
While that heartwarming message is all well and good — and shared by countless other holiday specials — Star Wars fans would do well to take another important lesson from the film: That it’s OK to not take Star Wars too seriously.
At various points in The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, the film pokes fun at various ongoing debates in Star Wars fandom, from the question of who shot first in the Mos Eisley cantina to the Empire’s decision to build a second Death Star (and the First Order’s decision to repeat that mistake). The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is at its best when it’s making fun of Kylo Ren’s affinity for going shirtless, Luke Skywalker’s taste for blue milk, or countless other moments that Star Wars fans often spend more time arguing over than laughing about, and offers a great reminder that doing the latter is a lot more fun.
Along with packing in plenty of silliness at its own expense, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special also wraps it all up in a satisfying homage to the past with original franchise actors Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels joining some of the more recent cast members (such as Kelly Marie Tran and Matt Lanter, who voiced Anakin Skywalker throughout the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series) in reprising their roles. That’s a gift that keeps on giving, as the special features a cornucopia of clever nods to the highs and lows of the franchise and its memorable moments that rewards repeat viewing.
Disney might not ever be able to erase the 1978 holiday special from the memories of longtime fans, but after watching The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s easy to feel a little better about the place these silly adventures hold in the Star Wars universe. Instead of giving fans another opportunity to argue about Star Wars, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special gives us a reason to share a laugh about it — and that’s the kind of gift we could all use right now.
Available only on Disney+, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special premieres Tuesday, November 17.
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