Disney goes for broke with The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is pretty clear about what it wants to achieve. The name alone should key any Star Wars fan into the game. Referencing the infamous Christmas special from 1978 should let you know that this is not aiming for much more than some easy laughs. Add to that the entire Lego branding and their usual lighthearted approach to these kinds of stories and you should know exactly what you’re in store for.
Unlike the original Star Wars Holiday Special, this time the variety show format has been dropped for a more directly linear story. Rey is training Finn to become a Jedi but seems to be failing. She consults the ancient Jedi texts for guidance and ends up with a magical artifact that allows her to travel through time. She is able to see a number of moments between former Jedi masters and their students, but the artifact ends up in the hands of the evil Emperor Palpatine. Rey will have to enlist the help of Star Wars heroes across the years to get thing back to normal.
Basically, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is an excuse to jump around to memorable moments throughout the Star Wars timeline and have a goof with them. Though some moments act as a fair bit of knowledgable needling at the franchise (more on that later), the majority of the comedic moments are just overly silly line deliveries or physical behavior. Normally, this would be grating but it’s important to remember the intended audience for this short film. This is very clearly intended for young kids with a few gags thrown in for the adults that get made to watch it.
So it isn’t really fair to punch down at the childish humor of The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, but what’s interesting is when the special picks some very specific elements of the Star Wars franchise to lampoon. An entire extended bit regarding Kylo Ren’s toplessness is cute but gets hammered on for a little too long. What actually ends up being the most subtle jab at the series is when Kylo Ren mentions that being thrown down a reactor shaft means there is no chance of survival. It might act as a cheeky reference that Palpatine will survive, but considering the rest of the special, it actually feels like a criticism about bringing the Emperor back in Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker.
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special makes sure to hit recognizable moments throughout the film series, but it mostly avoids Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. That might have to do with Disney wanting to avoid being too reverential towards its own Star Wars output, but it also wants to mine the more nostalgic elements that older fans love about Star Wars. It’s a weird middle ground of providing more of the new generation while still being devoted to all the familiar beats of the past.
Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot about The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special that’s too substantive. It’s designed to be a fleeting experience and it succeeds at that. The 45-minute special flies by at a breakneck pace, often capturing the same brevity you’ll find in the Lego video game series. There are also a few Lego-specific gags that the special could have actually used more of. The bits where the characters detach their heads or other accessory parts are some of the funniest visual jokes in the short film. The movie could have used more Lego and less Star Wars.
If there is one other thing to take note of, it’s the voice cast. The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special has appearances from some of the film actors like Kelly Marie Tran and Billy Dee Williams, but it is mostly made up of voice actors stepping in for various roles. Most of them do a solid job, but lead actress Helen Sadler comes on a little too strong with her particular accent. It’s undeniable that Rey’s particular accent is a noticeable one, but Sadler’s inflections with it almost feel like a parody. Her acting is not an issue but it feels like she could have used some direction in pulling back just how strong it comes across.
Still, The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is an inoffensive and airy bit of holiday fun for Star Wars fans. Older fans will enjoy the plethora of references and cheery revisits throughout the timeline, and younger fans will enjoy the goofball humor and rapid pace. But, once it’s all said and done, it feels like you’ve barely watched anything. Holiday specials have a high bar to clear since they have the potential to become annual watches for fans. It’s tough to imagine The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special reaching that plateau. It’s certainly a more pleasant and palatable experience than the original Star Wars Holiday Special, but it’s not nearly as memorable. Take that as you will.