I know it’s a few days after May the 4th, the unofficial Star Wars day because of how the phrase sounds like “may the Force be with you” but I really wanted to do something special this year to celebrate the geeky holiday. It then struck me how there is another holiday that is celebrated in the Star Wars universe but it’s something George Lucas regrets having it greenlit. That holiday would be the Wookie holiday of Life Day.
So I thought it would be a gas, in honor of May the 4th, to watch the very thing George Lucas has vowed to keep away from Star Wars fans for decades. I though it would be a good idea to watch the entire Star Wars Holiday Special.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed. It was for all the wrong reasons… but I wasn’t disappointed.
How was I able to watch it, despite it being out of print officially and George Lucas attempting to erase it from existence (which is surprisingly similar to his attitude towards the Original Trilogy, come to think of it), totally getting rid of each and every copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special is going to be impossible today thanks to the Internet. Even a cursory search on YouTube, which is how I saw it, will immediately give you results!
The Star Wars Holiday Special takes places some time between Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. While the premise is basically Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to bring the latter to his home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, a sacred holiday for Wookies. It’s actually not, though. The Star Wars Holiday Special is actually about Chewbacca’s family and some Empire soldiers watching videos. Oh, they’re basically watching the videos to pass the time while Chewie and Han Solo as an excuse to actually play the videos! There are some interspaced scenes where Chewie’s family contacts Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker as, you know, they’re the characters we know. However, they feel more like cameos rather than stars in this special.
As the Star Wars Holiday Special primarily follows Chewbacca’s family, like in the Star Wars films, we actually don’t understand the grunts and growls from any of the Wookies and we just have to infer by their body language. It can be infuriating but, if you really put your mind to it, you can sort of get what they’re trying to say. It’s kind of like watching a silent movie in a way. However, a part of me really wanted something like subtitles.
Of course, that’s not my biggest gripe with the Star Wars Holiday Special. My biggest issue is with the actual content of the made-for-television movie! It’s very monotonous and, honestly, the overarching story of Chewie’s family preparing for Life Day and the Empire barging into their home so they watch videos. Yes, even the freaking Empire go ahead and watch videos while they’re searching for Chewbacca and Han Solo because that’s the premise!
This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if most of the video segments were actually good. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case! Some of them feel very out of place, like segment where Jefferson Starship plays a fairly neat song and the Cirque Du Soleil act which Chewie’s son, Lumpy (what a stupid name!) watches to entertain himself. We also have the Mind Evaporator portion where Chewbacca’s father, Itchy (another stupid name), watches Diahann Carroll sing something. The Mind Evaporator scene actually made me feel uncomfortable because, let’s face it, this is Wookie porn! No, really! Even the guy who gives the disc to Itchy describes the video as “wow… if you know what a mean” and, while Itchy is watching the video, he has this silly dirty old man grin on his face while he, ugh, grunts a whole lot! Adding to the creep factor is he’s watching it in the living room! Happy Life Day indeed, Itchy!
Some segments are just goofy and, maybe if I were a kid, I think I would’ve had a blast with them. The cooking show Malla, Chewie’s wife, watches while trying to keep up with the four-armed chef cooking up a storm would have been a gas if I were very young. I might have even found their shopkeeper friend somewhat funny because of how dopey he would act at times just to annoy the Empire personnel. As an adult, however, I found these bits very cheesy and unfunny. I do give them a pass because they were obviously targeting little kids with these segments… I hope.
There are actually a couple of segments I enjoyed, one ironically and one unironically. The first would be the cartoon featuring Boba Fett but not because the story was actually fun but how ridiculous everything about the cartoon is! For one thing, the reason why Lumpy is watching the cartoon is confusing. You expect me to believe the Rebels created an animated show for children to watch in secret (as they have to hide each episode from the Empire) and they got Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C3-P0 and R2-D2 do the voice acting for? Not only that, they mixed in sound clips of Darth Vader as well!
The animation is both great and horrific at the same time! I love the imaginative locations like the red water planet they crash land on. I love how they made Boba Fett such a cool and calculating character but, at the same time, a sniveling coward as he flees the instant his ruse is discovered! Everything does move surprisingly smooth but in a cartoony fun way. The best and worst thing about the animated segment was how everyone looks! Luke’s hair is gorgeous! Leia has super buggy eyes and a huge mouth! Chewbacca looks like a giant pomeranian! R2-D2 has a flexible body! C3-P0 actually has pupils! The standout is definitely Han Solo as he looks like he’s just sleeping! It’s great and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud while I watched it.
While I enjoyed the Boba Fett cartoon because it falls under the “it’s so bad, it’s good” category, I can’t say the same for the Tatooine cantina scene because, well, I thought it was honestly really good and touching. The way they explain why their broadcasting the goings on of the cantina is weird as it’s supposed to show Empire citizens how good their life is compared to theirs is almost satire of how you feel less miserable when you know others are more miserable than you.
The cantina short, while not exactly feeling like it belongs in the Star Wars universe, does seem like they put a lot of effort to make it feel authentic. If you squint really hard, the set does resemble the cantina Luke and Obi-Wan first encounter Han Solo and Chewbacca. They even use some of the same alien characters from the movie! However, the thing I like about this short is the main character, portrayed by Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls. She’s she owner of the cantina and she actually has a story arc where a customer accidentally fell in love with her and, when the Empire enforces a curfew on the entire planet, she has to get everyone out of the bar. The song she sings to do so is bittersweet in a way. It’s touching and sentimental in its own way.
I also have to talk about the ending of the special because, well, I didn’t understand what the heck was happening at the end! Chewbacca manages to reach home and Han kills a Stormtrooper by tricking the Empire soldier to leap to their death. The shopkeeper returns, which is a good thing because the Empire commander used their emergency broadcast system to contact that one specific Stormtrooper, and the shopkeeper explains the soldier robbed him and he’s on the run now. I love how the Empire just took his word for it!
Anyway, Han leaves and Chewie and his family dress up in robes, grab their Life Day orbs and then teleport through time and space to get to the Tree of Life! Somehow, everyone, including Luke, Leia and Han arrive (even though Han just left on the Millennium Falcon a few seconds ago) and Leia gives a speech of the significance of the holiday, which is kind of insulting since she isn’t even a Wookie. Leia then sings the Life Day song because it doesn’t matter the reason because we now have pure gold of Leia singing a cheesy song!
Despite how I ragged on most of the Star Wars Holiday Special, I had an incredible time watching it. It definitely has this “so bad it’s good” vibe to it. There were many times I looked at the screen and couldn’t believe how dumb it was and it was just so much fun! I know it’s a cash grab because of how big Star Wars began and it’s just funny to think this is the direction it might’ve taken. It’s hilarious to think Star Wars might have become this silly children’s property with (even more) inept Stormtroopers and childish storylines. Then again, it was a simpler time and no one could really see how big it was going to be nor how serious fans were going to take the franchise.
With that in mind, I can see why George Lucas doesn’t want fans to see it but he really should lighten up! The Star Wars Holiday Special is a treasure every fan of the franchise should see at least once. The Star Wars Holiday Special should be a reminder that Star Wars is supposed to entertain and not take it too seriously.
Happy Life Day and May The Fourth/Force Be With You!
Have you seen the Star Wars Holiday Special? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!