The original Star Wars Holiday Special has always occupied a perverse corner of the Star Wars universe.
It’s bad. Really bad. “Let’s get Jefferson Starship in there for some reason” bad. But it’s also so honest and sincere in its badness. That honesty is why we tend to look back on it now with good humor even as we accept its (oh so many) faults. The new Lego Star Wars Holiday Special on Disney+ channels the original’s wholesome energy, but with much more appetizing results.
The 47-minute jaunt is a little bit parody, a little bit clip show. The premise sticks to the same basic idea as the original: It’s “Life Day,” which is Star Wars for Wookiee Christmas, and the new trilogy’s gang is getting ready to celebrate on Kashyyk with Chewbacca and his family.
Things hit a bit of a speed bump, though, when Rey’s unsuccessful attempts to train Finn in the ways of the Force lead her to a prophecy and a distant Jedi temple. So she ditches her friends in the midst of their Life Day preparations (moral foreshadowing alert!) and heads out, leading her to discover a Force-empowered crystal that can open gateways into the past.
Lego Star Wars Holiday Special channels the original’s wholesome energy.
What follows from there is a series of sojourns into memorable Star Wars moments and duels from across the full stretch of the Star Wars cinematic universe. We visit all three trilogies, but also the Clone Wars series and, of course, The Mandalorian. (Spoiler alert: Baby Yoda is freakin’ adorable even in Lego form.)
There’s nothing especially groundbreaking or thought-provoking about what the Holiday Special is doing. These CG animated, Lego-fueled stories are generally made with a younger audience in mind. But that doesn’t mean Star Wars-loving olds are forgotten.
For one, there are tons of little Easter eggs and nods to in-jokes that adult-age fans are more likely to pick up on. I’m talking about things like “Maclunkey!” and the infamous shirtless Adam Driver meme. There’s even a Max Rebo moment! Despite some big missed opportunities, like skipping Ahsoka Tano entirely(?!?) and refusing an easy “I have the high ground” joke, looking out for little winks and nods is a big part of the fun here.
But also, this is a Star Wars story top to bottom. Where the original Holiday Special embraced more of a variety show kind of vibe, this Legofied take pins its journey through Star Wars lore to a plot that weaves in and out of the series history by design. As Rey travels through time looking for hints from Jedi Masters training their students, she draws the attention of a Return of the Jedi-era Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader.
So begins a time-flipping duel that pulls a growing lineup of familiar faces into the mix. Wonder what it would be like to see Darth Vader duel Darth Vader? How about three Luke Skywalkers staring each other down in a moment reminiscent of the Spider-Man pointing meme? Or Old Han and Young Han facing off with a single Greedo?
And remember, too: Everything I’m talking about here is brought to life by computer animated Legos. It’s not any kind of great feat at this point for animated works to hit the visual quality of Pixar. But the inherently charming design of Lego minifigs leads to plenty of physical humor, like Rey removing her plastic shell of hair to shake out Dagobah swamp water. Darth Maul might have been a threatening presence in Phantom Menace, but seeing his upper half hop its way into the frame is adorably funny.
In one notable knock, most of the major actors are missing from the voice cast. While you do have folks like Matt Lanter reprising his Clone Wars role of Anakin Skywalker, the movie principals like Rey, Finn, and Darth Vader are voiced by TV and video game veterans. That said, we do get unmistakable contributions from Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels, as Lando and C-3PO, as well as Kelly Marie Tran returning with more to do than her Rose Tico had in The Rise of Skywalker.
Taken all together, the whole thing feels strange and surreal to watch, and it dips into direct parody more than it doesn’t. But that’s the Lego sense of humor, as anyone who’s played the video games or watched things like the excellent Lego Batman Movie already knows very well.
It all wraps up in a typically schmaltzy kind of way for a holiday special. I won’t spoil anything, but there are no surprises here. That ultimately is what makes the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special such a welcome blast of comfort viewing and fan service to cap off a grueling year. It doesn’t try to right the wrongs of the original, but its inherent wholesomeness and clear love for the source material delivers unto Star Wars fans a new gold standard for holiday viewing in a galaxy far, far away.
The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special is now streaming on Disney+.
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