Star Wars Holiday Special Review

Jordi de Barros, Staff Writer

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As Star Wars prepares to explore the backstory of Han Solo in their upcoming Solo movie, many fans cannot wait to discover a different side of one of the franchise’s most popular characters. However, this is not the first time we will be exposed to a plot that does not appear to be completely related to the original trilogy in some way. For that, we will have to travel back in time to 1978, when the Star Wars Holiday Special gave unsuspecting viewers and Star Wars fans something to forget.

Originally broadcast on November 17, 1978, this campy production of Star Wars Holiday Special centers itself around Chewbacca’s family, who await his return to his home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, the most important day of the year. However, an Imperial blockade of the planet complicates Chewbacca’s return and causes his family to worry when he does not arrive home on time. Throughout the movie, Malla (Chewbacca’s wife), Lumpy (his son), and Itchy (his father) try to gather information about Chewbacca’s whereabouts by contacting some of his close friends, including Luke and Leia. They also remain occupied by a visit from some Stormtroopers and various scenes that feature celebrity guests like Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, and the band Jefferson Starship (I doubt many younger folks recognize these names, but I’m sure they were a big deal back in the day).

Despite the fact that they retained the original iconic cast and brought along some well-known guests, this film suffers from a host of problems that make it a massive train wreck, one of which is the subject of the film-the Wookiees. The overwhelming number of Wookiee cries and calls infuriated. At the very start of the movie, Chewbacca’s family engages in about five minutes of uninterrupted Wookiee dialogue, devoid of any subtitles or translations. The whole scene devolved into a cringe-worthy attempt at a seventies sitcom as I struggled to understand what the characters were trying to say. In addition, Lumpy’s insufferable whining throughout the movie makes me wonder if Chewbacca spends as much time as he can away from home. It also doesn’t help that the costumes for Lumpy and Itchy look terrible as well. All of these issues come together to paint a contradictory picture of Chewbacca’s background as a family man living in a 1970’s styled tree house rather than a Bowcaster-wielding smuggler.

Unfortunately, Chewbacca’s family only shares part of the blame for making this movie so awful. The rest of the blame lies on most of the comedy skits and guest appearances. Some scenes are just too strange, even for Star Wars. From Diahann Carroll’s suggestive virtual reality scene to cross-dressed Harvey Korman’s cooking show, having to sit through them was a chore, as they add nothing to the plot and seem to go on for too long. Of course, they could be forgiven if they were funny, but the beauty of the Holiday Special is that it will leave you scratching your head in disbelief or confusion most of the time. 

Another gripe that many fans share is the lack of the signature elements of the trilogy. At its core, the Holiday Special does not have the lightsaber duels, space battles, or the storyline that most people conjure up when they think of the Star Wars franchise. Instead, they get the very worst of seventies sitcom and sci-fi television wrapped together under the deceptive Star Wars name. After watching the movie, I wished that they had focused more on Han and Chewbacca. They only appear briefly as they try to escape the Imperial ships and when they finally reunite with Chewbacca’s family. Instead, the plot only serves to tie in all of the guest performances and it nearly fails at that too. 

In the end, the Holiday Special is an awful movie, I do feel that some of the hate for it is unjustified. The directors of the movie never intended to create a feature film that would share a spot in film history alongside the original trilogy. In fact, today’s Star Wars fans carry an inescapable bias: they have watched the original Star Wars films, the prequels, and the modern releases such as The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, which will serve as their baseline for a comparison. Back in 1978, only A New Hope had been released, and no one had a clue what the Star Wars franchise had in store for them. The film also included some good scenes, such as the performance by Jefferson Starship, as well as the short cartoon segment that features Boba Fett before his actual introduction in The Empire Strikes Back. Other musical performances, such as Bea Arthur’s “Good Night, But Not Goodbye” and Carrie Fisher’s Life Day song at the end of the movie are also quite good and redeem an otherwise dismal effort. Therefore, if you decide to watch the Star Wars Holiday Special, try not to take it seriously and do not have any high expectations. Who knows, perhaps you may even be tempted to celebrate Life Day with the rest of the galaxy.  For now, Star Wars fans can hope that Solo: A Star Wars Story will deliver a memorable storyline that does justice to Han Solo’s legendary status.

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Star Wars Holiday Special Review