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'Star Wars' 'toons: A good idea?

The upcoming ”Clone Wars” animated movie triggers flashbacks to the horrors of ”Droids” and ”Ewoks.” Plus: The Glutton responds to your picks for the most overrated movies, TV shows, and more

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‘Star Wars’ ‘toons: A good idea?

You won’t find a bigger Star Wars fan than me. Well, that’s not exactly true. Those dudes who camp out in Greedo masks and speak strictly in Rodian may have me beat. But I geek out pretty hot and heavy. Loyal readers have read past musings about me watching the trilogy with my son and throwing a Star Wars-themed birthday party for him. I have an attic full of toys from the films that my wife keeps begging me to throw away, lest some friends somehow stumble upon them and realize that their neighborhood has been infected with the nerd virus. So, you get the point.

But my excitement over the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie is matched by an equal sense of trepidation. (And confusion. After all, wasn’t there already a Clone Wars animated TV series? And why did Sylvester Stallone put out two different films named Rambo? And why did that band Weezer put out two self-titled albums? I’m just sayin’ — is it that difficult to come up with a new title these days?)

My trepidation is not based on the quality of the recent trilogy. I actually didn’t think the last three movies were as awful as most people did. Yes, Jar Jar was an embarrassment, as was the acting of Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman. But The Phantom Menace featured the most badass lightsaber duel ever, Attack of the Clones was decent anytime Anakin and Padmé weren’t on the screen, and I consider Revenge of the Sith to be a totally engrossing film (except for the fact that I can’t for the life of me figure out the timeframe and if Padmé’s entire pregnancy term was a week, or what).

No, my trepidation is based solely on the quality of previous animated Star Wars incarnations. The Clone Wars TV series (put together by Samurai Jack‘s Genndy Tartakovsky) was solid, but the installments were only three minutes long. And what did we have before that? Well, the mother lode occurred back in 1985, when we were treated — make that subjected — to two cartoons: Droids and Ewoks. Droids followed the comical (and I use that term loosely) adventures of C-3P0 and R2-D2 hobnobbing around the galaxy. One particularly awful installment that has refused to leave my memory bank involved helping some brainwashed prince escape from a life of slavery. I must have been brainwashed as well because I watched it — THREE TIMES!

But Droids was a freakin’ masterpiece compared to Ewoks. Make no mistake about it, the Ewoks sucked when they were live-action in Return of the Jedi. Even as a little boy, I wasn’t going to let myself get manipulated by that scene with the baby Ewok crying over his dead mommy. I think that may have actually been the only time I rooted for the Empire to win. As if watching them ruin Jedi wasn’t bad enough, there were two even worse Ewok made-for-TV movies that starred people like Wilford Brimley and Burl Ives. But as sucky as the real Ewoks were — yes, Warwick Davis, I’m talking to you — the cartoon ones were truly the bottom of the barrel. As far as I can remember — and trust me, I’ve tried to forget — Ewoks centered around a bad guy named Morag trying for some reason that maybe made some amount of sense to kill all the Ewoks. (Think Gargamel and the Smurfs and you’re on the right path.) Oh, and also, the animated Ewoks could talk! I’m not exactly sure how that happened, but Lord, I wish it hadn’t.

Ewoks and Droids weren’t the first forays into animation for George Lucas. Oh no, that would be a segment of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. I say infamous because this might just be the worst Christmas special of all time. Although it’s not Christmas they’re celebrating, but something called ”Life Day” on Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk. (I know this because Princess Leia sings a horrible song all about it, and it’s the single most embarrassing moment of Carrie Fisher’s career.) But about halfway through this two-hour debacle, we are treated to an animated clip of Luke trying to save Han and Chewie from some sort of mishap. The cartoon is actually pretty decent. Maybe I’m just saying this because it features the first ever appearance of Boba Fett, and I’m a hardcore Fett fan. Or maybe it’s just because it seems a lot better than it actually is when measured against the other contents of the special, which includes Bea Arthur singing in a cantina, a hologram performance by Jefferson Starship, and about a half-hour spoken entirely in Wookiee, courtesy of Chewbacca’s son Lumpy. Whatever. Although drawn in the same style as Droids, it’s much more tolerable, you have all the original voices, and Boba Fett is smacking people around something fierce. What’s not to like?

So, as you can see, the quality of previous Star Wars animated offerings has been mixed. How will the new one stack up? Well, it appears to be Ewok-free. That’s a start. Now let’s just hope they can steer clear of the Gungans.

NEXT PAGE: The live CD Dalton’s obsessed with, the Five Reasons He Loves Ivan Drago, and your letters about overrated entertainment

OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
Live albums kind of suck. There are a few that stand out, like the MC5’s Kick Out the Jams and Cheap Trick’s At Budokan, but for the most part, they pale in comparison to the more meticulous studio efforts. But I couldn’t help but be excited over the recent release of a live CD, R.I.P., from Rocket From the Crypt. There are a few reasons for this: For one, Rocket From the Crypt were one of my favorite bands of the 1990s. For another, they put on one of the best live shows around. I saw them on stages small (CBGB’s), large (Central Park Summerstage), and completely random (Hammerjacks in Baltimore???), and they always rocked the house. Wow, did I just use the term ”rocked the house”? That’s pretty embarrassing. I don’t think I could have come up with a less hip expression if I tried. Maybe if I had somehow worked the phrase ”funky cold medina” in there. Otherwise, that’s about as bad as it gets. In any event, the point is, they were a great live band. But being a great live band is not just about technical proficiency — it’s about an energy, a vibe. That vibe doesn’t always translate when transferred to CD (or the even colder, more impersonal MP3 file). That’s kind of the case here. R.I.P. simply can’t capture the same excitement as actually being at a show, and it doesn’t pack the same punch as the more polished studio albums, but it does provide a fitting coda for this late, great rock & roll steamroller of a band. EW’s own Dan Snierson may refuse to acknowledge that horns can be successfully incorporated into rock music, but RFTC proved him wrong time and time again, and they do so again here. Listening to them is as intoxicating as chugging down a huge vat of funky cold medina. (Sorry.)

THE FIVE
The Cold War may be over, so it’s time to throw a little international love over to everyone’s favorite Ruskie. Click on the video below to see the Five Reasons I Love Ivan Drago.

READER MAIL

The one thing that I will never make the mistake of overrating? Your passionate opinions! Glutton readers sent in their opinions on my overrated list, and, well, some of them weren’t very nice. Not very nice at all! Although I do have to admit I chuckled at the one that simply said ”ass.” No name. No nothing. Just ”ass.” In any event, here are some of the less angry thoughts on my nominees, as well as some of your own.

Thank you, thank you. Someone finally called out the mess that is the movie Pretty Woman. The most banal, unbelievable movie ever made. Julia Roberts is beyond annoying in this movie, trying to portray a trailer-trash runaway hooker while looking like she just finished posing for the cover of Vogue mag. —Annette Blount

I think I made my thoughts clear on this movie, and am typing this v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y right now so as not to get riled up all over again, but let me just state that you seem like a very astute woman, Annette.

I think Friends is the most overrated TV show. It simply personifies the narcissism that’s become pervasive in our culture today. All six characters were so shallow, unaware, cartoonish, and truly self-absorbed…in real life they’re the kind of people you plot against because they think the world revolves around them. And I think the biggest disappointment is that a majority of the cast was not acting…THAT was who they were, which is why nothing they’ve done since Friends went away has worked, because they cannot act and no one wants to use them. But hey, those six people are rich. To be fair, I love Lisa Kudrow as she has more depth to her and miles of talent. As for the rest…simply obnoxious! —Jim Jenkins

I think I had the same problem you did, Jim. I just didn’t like the characters, and if you don’t like the characters, you’re not likely to like the show. Seeing as how I have never said one word to any of the actors, I cannot vouch either way as to their personal character. I stood near Matthew Perry at an EW party once, though. He didn’t smell. That’s about all I have to go on as far as he’s concerned.

I fully second your contempt for Six Feet Under, a show completely devoted to putting its lead characters through every conceivable kind of personal torture. I hate this show so much. It was plainly obvious that whenever a new development occurred for this cast, the single worst, most horrible, gut-wrenching thing that ”could happen” WOULD happen. That means no suspense at all! Boring!!!!! —Roberto Torres-Torres

Yeah, it almost became cliché how screwed up every character on that show was. They all seemed miserable, and I, in turn, became kinda miserable watching it. I’m all for flawed, complex characters, but there has to be a balance, and Six Feet Under seemed to lose that somewhere along the way. Of course, it was hardly the only show to lose its mojo a few seasons in. (The West Wing, anyone?)

The most overrated TV show of all time is Seinfeld. The fat guy was funny, Kramer was hilarious, and even the annoying lady had her moments…but to me, Jerry Seinfeld just isn’t funny at all. I’ve even tried to give his standup routine a try, and decided to leave halfway through the show. I’ve been open, practically forced myself to like him, and just can’t do it. Larry David’s the man, but Jerry’s just not funny. — Anthony Rojas

This was merely one of many letters pegging Seinfeld as overrated. In fact, the show easily ranks as the numero uno overrated entertainment entity by you dear readers, judging by your correspondence. But sorry — I can’t climb on board that bandwagon. I actually think the show is hilarious, and still really holds up well today. No, Jerry is not a particularly good actor, but I kind of thought he used that to his advantage. The quick cuts and emphasis on the mundane — this is truly a sitcom that changed television. For the better, I’d say.

American Idol. I just don’t get it. Maybe because I have some music talent, and would rather make my own music than listen to a bunch of wannabes forget their lyrics. — Spencer

Lord, do people hate this show, and I can totally understand why: It’s second-rate singers covering songs they for the most part have no business singing; the results show is a complete exercise in time-wasting futility; and the winner doesn’t even really win much these days anyway, if recent album sales are any indicator. But I dig the thrill of live competition, where truly anything can happen. That moment where David Archuleta completely forgot the words to a Beatles song? About as good as television gets, if you ask me. If only more people would royally screw up.

Sharon Stone. Period. One crotch shot and suddenly she’s everywhere. Completely forgettable in every single performance. (Okay, Casino aside.) And yet, she’s a ”movie star.” Huh? — Chloe

You’re right about a few things here, Chloe. That one crotch shot did propel her to international stardom, perhaps undeservedly. But you’re also right that she was fantastic in Casino. I remember being positively shocked by her performance. She totally immersed herself in that role. However, any goodwill earned by that was quickly lost by the triple shot of Gloria, Catwoman, and Basic Instinct 2.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding has got to be the most overrated movie I have ever seen. Everyone just loved this movie and thought it was so flippin’ hilarious. I believe it was even nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the year it came out. I didn’t get it! I found it annoying at best and quite boring. — Jennifer Bussey

You know, I’m going to admit something that is somewhat embarrassing: I laughed when I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I say this is embarrassing because even as I was laughing, I realized what a stupid, one-note movie it was, filled with ethnic-stereotype humor. It’s certainly not a movie I would recommend or ever watch again (especially after sitting through the god-awful TV spin-off), but I did laugh while watching it, so I have to call myself out for it. Speaking of calling things out, a few other things that received multiple votes from you dear readers as being overrated: Oprah (agree), Citizen Kane (don’t agree), Titanic (agree, to a point), The Sopranos (don’t agree), Nirvana (great band, but yeah, it’s been a bit much), Grey’s Anatomy (agree), KISS (don’t agree — I mean, have you seen KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park? Best. Movie. Ever.), No Country for Old Men (don’t agree), and Shakespeare in Love (agree, and am shocked I didn’t put it on my original list). The entire list of nominees is way too long to print here, but thanks to everyone for playing along. And especially to that dude who called me ”ass.”

Any other people or projects you’d like to nominate as overrated? Thoughts on the animated Star Wars projects of the past, present, or future? And what is it that you love about Ivan Drago? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to theglutton@ew.com, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya!