The ‘Phantom Menace’ backlash continues
Unlike most of my nostalgia-crazed friends currently swept up in the blitzkrieg of ”Phantom Menace” hype, ”Star Wars” was never the defining film of my youth — ”Jaws” was. In fact, I can recite Quint’s famous U.S.S. ”Indianapolis” speech with the same ease and nonchalance that most Obi-Wan acolytes can say: ”These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
Don’t get me wrong, I had Han Solo and Boba Fett action figures up the wazoo. Heck, I think I even sported a pair of blue Jedi Underoos at one point. Still, I just wasn’t the card-carrying, plastic-lightsaber-rattling member of the Rebel Alliance that my boyhood pals were. The reason I even bother to disclose any of this is that I simply want to lay all of my cards on the table before I start railing on George Lucas for dreaming up the irritatingly goofy and annoyingly lame Jar Jar Binks character in ”The Phantom Menace.”
Now before you start posting your hate mail or hire some goon to come to the EW offices and kneecap me, let me say I actually kind of liked ”The Phantom Menace.” I got goose bumps when the opening scroll read: ”A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away….” I thought the chop-socky lightsaber finale with Darth Maul was Hong Kong-tastic. And I didn’t even mind little Anakin Skywalker screaming ”Yippeeeeee!!!!” when he found out he was going to go train to become a Jedi Knight. But that Jar Jar Binks guy was a big bag of ass from beginning to end. And he must go if Mr. Lucas expects me to cough up nine more bucks for the next chapter in the saga.
For those of you who haven’t seen the film yet, here’s a little background on the oh-so-loathsome Jar Jar Stinks, I mean, Binks. Basically he’s a digitally rendered Joe Camel lookin’ spaz with bug eyes, flopsy ears, and a jive Caribbean dialect that makes him sound like he’s auditioning for a cartoon remake of ”Amos N’ Andy.” When he utters the line ”Wee-za gon-na die!,” I couldn’t help but think of that kid with the fat lip in the old ”Fat Albert” TV show.
Anyway, after his life is saved by Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon at the beginning of the film, he decides to tag along out of gratitude. In short, Jar Jar takes on the Chewbacca sidekick role. But while good ol’ Chewie wouldn’t hesitate to risk his neck for his brother-man, Jar Jar stumbles into a never-ending series of clumsy, kid-friendly comic-relief high jinks that routinely stop the movie dead in its tracks. In one scene he actually — get this — steps in doodie! C’mon, this is ”Star Wars,” not an installment in the ”Beethoven” franchise. But sadly, Jar Jar Binks makes ALF look like a comedy genius in comparison.
It’s not that I object to the cravenly tot-targeted Jar Jar just because his cynical slapstick is going to sell scads of action figures. I’m actually quite cool with the fact that Lucas wants to rake in endless amounts of dough by getting kids hooked on his cinematic crack. It’s just that literally every time Jar Jar opened his computer-generated piehole I started to twitch like a nervous jackrabbit. And in the midst of those twitching fits I also experienced a little deja vu. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that I first saw ”Return of the Jedi” and got a glimpse of the horror that was the Ewoks. And I’m sorry to have to be the one to say this, but Jar Jar, I’ve met the Ewoks…and you sir, are no Ewok.