“I think she eats giggles!”
Justin’s rating: Star Wars: The Dennis Menace
Justin’s review: If I ever gave credit to George Lucas, it’s usually for the fact that he’s no honorable fighter. This isn’t a guy who, when confronted with a villain who’s lost his weapon, will suddenly restrain from shooting his gun out of a sense of morality. No, Mr. Lucas would go for the kill, scalp it, and then keep kicking the corpse for ten minutes for good measure (after that, of course, he’ll use CGI to tinker and create a “Special Edition” of the fight with 90% more Jawa). That’s all well and good, but the man has some sort of brain parasite that makes him see his biggest supporters as most unwelcome guests. If only Lucas could’ve seen that Star Wars fans weren’t his main enemies, then perhaps we wouldn’t be treated to such a knee-in-the-groin like Caravan of Courage.
Also titled Ewoks: Caravan of Courage, or Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, or Holy Toledo I Won A Bar Bet With Spielberg To Actually Get Something Worse Than Howard The Duck Made, this made-for-TV movie was the response of millions of Star Wars fans clamoring for a continuation of the series after Return of the Jedi. “Give us more Star Wars!” they yelled, clanging on LucasFilm’s gate.
To spite them, Lucas did… but instead of giving a go-ahead to any moderately cool project, he produced this. He knew fans would see it, since it had at least limited connections with the Star Wars franchise, and he knew that by solely marketing it to four-year-old boys, he was making fools of them all.
“How you like that, you sons of sarlaacs?” he yelled back from his mansion window. “You know what? Just for liking my movies that much, I’m even going to give you a second stab in the back… I mean, a second awesome Ewok movie!”
We’ll go into The Battle for Endor some other day, but let’s begin where Jedi left off: Ewoks. Before The Phantom Menace pillaged our childhood memories, Ewoks caused the biggest outcry of loyal Star Wars fans as being the most tacky merchandise magnets devised for the franchise. The only two theories for their inclusion into Jedi was that either Lucas couldn’t accept that anyone other than young kids were acceptable audiences for his film or that he just didn’t like humanity in general. Rating a hip factor of just one, the only thing these waddling teddy bears were good for was a quick laugh or two as Stormtroopers got their comeuppance by sharp sticks and falling rocks.
Caravan of Courage starts off on the assumption that you are deeply in love with these critters, but apart from the disturbing plushie and furry internet subset, this assumption is dead wrong. The entire movie is fairly close to a loving documentary on Ewok culture, narrated no less, by a guy who sounds like he does nature shows on PBS. Even the one slightly interesting thing about Ewoks — that they lived in tree forts way above the forest floor — is glossed over and most action is firmly on the ground.
If you’ve sauntered in looking for anything with a Star Warsy feel, then just saunter back out again. There’s precious little to be rationed out here. Occurring a non-specific time after/before Jedi, Caravan of Courage features a family of four (two clueless parents, one sniffly toddler, and one whiny brat) who crash-landed on Endor’s moon — and no, we don’t get to see the crash or outer space at all. This is all Endor, baby. And by “Endor”, I mean “Shot on location at a state park in Ohio.”
The parents lose the children one night and promptly follow that up by falling victim to a giant furry obviously-not-a-Wookiee monster. It’s a Gorax, and he’s there to provide plenty of quest goals for our heroes but very little in terms of personal satisfaction. His whole scheme seems to be “travel to this incredibly far off land, kidnap two humans, and cage them up back at home for no reason,” just so that the human kids have somewhere to go and something to rescue.
Our kids in question are sort of adopted by Wickett’s family. Yes, that Wickett, Princess Leia’s old flame, reprised by actor Warwick Davis. The younger of the two kids is Cindel, who (a) looks cherubic with a scrunchie hair band, (b) grins during serious scenes, and (c) gets sick for no good reason. There’s a lot that happens here for no good reason. The older brother is Mace, a cranky Luke Skywalker wanna-be who constantly dislikes the Ewoks. For no good reason. See?
The story moves as fast as a dollop of honey running down a 20-degree incline. Brutally slow scenes creep by as there are pointless “adventures” for the Ewok-human squad to encounter. In fact, even with their parents presumably in life-threatening peril, Mace and Cindel putz around the Ewok village for forty minutes before finally forming the titular “caravan of courage” and going off to rescue the cage dwellers. This caravan, by the way, is one put-upon horse with a massive pup tent on his back and a few expendable Ewoks. The group travels, they fight incredibly fake spiders, they rescue the parents who are somehow getting fed and watered (maybe the Gorax wanted to keep them as pets?). And that’s pretty much it.
While there are moments that touch upon a Star Wars feel — such as the few times where Mace uses his blaster, or when a stop motion-animated creature attacks them — the bulk of this film is empty fluff. Particularly annoying are any of the hundred scenes where the kids tearfully wish for their parents’ loving embrace and how they just KNOW their parents are still alive and still care for them. It’s enough to make anyone want to leap through the screen, all Ring-like, and coldly inform them about the statistics and probabilities of survival on an alien planet. Death awaits you all, children, with big nasty sharp pointy teeth.
I haven’t even mentioned how now there’s “magic” on Endor, nor the blatant Tinkerbell companion that joins the caravan. I just don’t have the spirit left in me.
This isn’t what we come for when we want Star Wars. We want spaceships, blasters, lightsabers, Jedi, huge space stations cunningly disguised as planetary bodies, and adventures that culminate in finding a princess lounging about like she was in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. If I wanted to visit a place where short hairy beings make mumbly noises and wobble about, I’d go to my family reunion, thank you very much. Caravan of Courage is not a good, nor a bearable piece of film, but what did you expect from a guy who would some day turn the biggest, baddest villain ever into a shrill, petulant teenage stalker?