Why We Need A New Star Wars Holiday Special|
(EDITORIAL NOTE: A long time, in a website far, far away, I used to write Star Wars humor columns for an online magazine called Echo Station. I was one of the more popular columnists until I realized that I wasn't getting paid nearly enough to do this. However, while I was there I came up with a unique theory on how to improve the prequels, which I realized few people here had read - and thus, I decided to reprint one of my more popular articles, written just after the release of Phantom Menace, just in time for Revenge of the Sith. Enjoy!)
"Ya know," I said to my wife one morning over breakfast, "I wish they'd make a new Star Wars Holiday Special."
She leapt over the table and throttled me. They say that in every veteran's eyes there is a steely glint that tells you, yes, this man has been in combat, he has taken another man's life - and deep in my wife's eyes glittered the dark madness which indicated that she, too, had sat through the interminable adventures of Lumpy The Wookiee and all his kin.
She had endured the Holiday Special. Once. And she would kill to stop it again.
"What," she hissed through clenched teeth, "Did you say?"
"I -" I choked, barely able to breathe through the fingers that were wrapped like steel cables around my neck, "I said we needed a new Holiday Special!"
She backed off, but aimed a butter knife towards the center portion of my eye. "I am a reasonable woman," she said, "And we are only three weeks married, so it seems a shame to kill you so soon. But there is no reason for a Holiday Special. Lucas lost control of the Star Wars license briefly, and in return we got a three-hour horror show involving Bea Arthur the singing bartender, Diahann Carroll bump-and-grinding like some G-rated version of Showgirls, and canned special effects recycled directly from the movie. It is boring. It isn't even entertaining in a cheesy, ha-ha sort of way - it is like having ground glass slowly poured underneath your eyelids.
"So tell me, my sweet husband, why you want Lucas to make a new one- and if your answer is not good enough, I'll bury your body out back under the doghouse."
She took that better than I thought she would.
"Listen," I said carefully, gingerly massaging my cracked collarbone, "The Holiday Special is when Lucas saw what would happen if he left his creation in the hands of other people, right?"
"Yes," she admitted.
"Think about it," I continued. "After seeing the Special, Lucas realized how horribly everything could go wrong. He'd blown a lot of good will right out the door by forcing his rabid fans to watch that kind of crap, that utter pabulum, that horrific warped monstrosity...."
"Go on," she said flatly, shifting the butter knife a bit closer to my sclera.
"I'm sorry," I said. "Anyway, so Lucas had completely blown it. He realized that he didn't have any more goodwill to draw on. As such, he couldn't get lazy. Because the Holiday Special had been so bad, now the sequel to Star Wars couldn't just be good... it had to be stunning. It had to be miraculous. It had to make up for the Holiday Special."
She leaned back slightly, but the knife never wavered. It was like she was bullseying womp rats back in Portland, Oregon and my eye was a rat butt.
"And this makes you desire another Star Wars Holiday attempt... how?" she said pointedly.
"Don't you see?" I said excitedly, gesticulating wildly. "The Phantom Menace wasn't bad... but it wasn't stunning, either. He got lazy. He knew he had the luxury of an audience who was going to watch the whole thing no matter what, and so he coasted through it. You saw that movie. There were good parts there. But he didn't work to make the bad parts better. He didn't even try."
Gini lowered the knife. She was starting to understand my logic.
"We need another Holiday Special," I pleaded. "A Phantom Menace Holiday Special. Something so utterly horrible, so full of tripe, poor puns, and bad performances that Lucas won't be able to live it down. That he'll flinch at the very mention of it. That he'll redouble his efforts on Star Wars, Chapter II simply because he knows he has to somehow make it up to the fans... and make it as good as Empire."
"My God," she said. "It makes sense."
"Of course it does, my sweet," I said, kissing her on the cheek. "Will you help?"
"Naturally," she said, and we enjoyed a thoroughly sumptuous breakfast.
It was the next morning that I set myself to work. Much like Lucas sequestered himself away using Hero With A Thousand Faces as a reference to write Star Wars, I also locked myself away in a room... except that my book was I'm Only One Man!, by Regis Philbin.
The new Holiday Special, much like The Phantom Menace itself, couldn't afford to be a carbon copy of the original. There would be no cartoon introducing a new player, and I wasn't about to retread the original plot. But it had to revolve around Lifeday. After all, this is a Holiday special, no?
Six days later I emerged from my room with a rough outline.
HYUNDAI CARS PRESENTS:
THE PHANTOM MENACE HOLIDAY SPECIAL
The movie OPENS on Coruscant, where the Jedi Juniors are celebrating the glorious holiday of Lifeday. About twenty small Padawan learners with tiny braids are running around, dressed in Junior Jedi costumes and waving lightsabers, chatting excitedly about the presents they're going to receive.
Their Jedi trainer, Qui-Bor (as played by chubby-cheeked ROSIE O'DONNELL) comes out and sings a small SONG AND DANCE about how even a Jedi's stoic heart is warmed by the love and giving that comes on Lifeday - and then gives out presents to all.
Anakin (still played by JAKE LLOYD, although his voice is starting to crack by now) watches carefully as all the other kids get wonderful presents. He is the last to open his present - and inside is a small, weathersoaked, drably-yellow bird. It looks up at him and squawks like a Furby with the batteries running low. It is ugly and unlovable and cheaply made by the props department to boot.
Anakin is crushed. To make things worse, the snooty Jedi twins Kwiza and Kwyza (played by THE OLSEN TWINS), who are from a much richer and nicer planet than dirty old Tatooine, come over and mock him relentlessly for getting the worst gift in the class. "The teacher must really hate you!" they taunt. He bursts into tears.
A young Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by a rather embarrassed-looking EWAN MCGREGOR) comes over, puts an arm around his shoulder, and explains to him that Anakin's gift is the Yar-Yar bird, a highly-prized creature from another planet. Although Anakin may not like it much, it is his Lifeday present and he should appreciate the thought behind it, if not the gift. Anakin AGREES to keep it.
In the meantime, DARK FORCES are occurring behind the scenes. Bumbling, down-on-his-luck bounty-hunter-for-hire Melgor (as played by the lovable JOE PESCI) talks to Darth Sidious on a holovid. Sidious hisses that he must have that Yar-Yar bird - it is essential to his plans for galaxywide domination. Melgor, who is grubby but very crafty, explains that the Jedi will all be attending a musical concert that evening and that's the perfect time to steal the Yar-Yar bird.
Sure enough, later that night the entire Jedi army are watching an extended musical number by CELINE DION, singing the sequel to "My Heart Must Go On" (entitled "A Jedi's Spirit Lives Forever"). We, too, watch Celine sing but near the end Melgor sneaks in. However, he is bumbling and knocks over several vases, crates, et cetera, and when he finally gets the Yar-Yar bird it BITES him on the nose. He SCREAMS in pain. The Jedi, finally realizing that something horrible is happening in their very midst, RUN to the Jedi Junior's bedrooms - but the Yar-Yar Bird has been kidnapped, leaving only a set of grubby footprints leading out the door. A squadron of fully-trained Jedi Knights stand around with their hands on their hips, wondering what to do next, when Anakin suggests that maybe whoever stole the Yar-Yar bird has fled into the underworld of Coruscant.
"What a great idea!" say the Jedi in unison. "Let's fan out and try to catch him!" They RUN out of the room.
Anakin is heartbroken. He may not have liked that Yar-Yar bird much, he says - but it was his Yar-Yar bird and Mistress Qui-Bor gave it to him. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Jedi Master Mace Windu (still played by a way too happy SAMUEL L. JACKSON) team up to follow the footprints - but first Anakin has to call his good friend JAR JAR BINKS on Naboo to see whether he can help them the way he did during the Naboo invasion.
Unfortunately, the special effects budget does not allow for a fully-CGI'd Jar Jar. The part of Jar Jar is played by a large, life-sized MANNEQUIN. Jar Jar is kickin' it back on Naboo, dancing frantically to a light calypso number played by none other than LOU BEGA. He explains when the song is over that he has "veeeery impo-ten' thingz heah!" and cannot join them. "Butsa happies Lifeday!" he squeaks.
Undaunted, the brave heroes make copies of the footprints, which lead them to a sleazy BAR far underneath the metal city of Coruscant. The bartender is staffed by world-weary Mistress Navnal (played by KIRSTIE ALLEY) and her overenthusiastic bouncer Slaughter (played by wrestling sensation MICK FOLEY, a.k.a. MANKIND).
When the heroes enter the bar, they find the goofy Slaughter throwing a patron out of the bar's window, and Obi-Wan mentions that this is a dangerous place for Jedi. "Is it as bad as Mos Eisley?" Anakin says, and Obi-Wan SHRUGS NONCOMMITTALLY.
(This is an insider joke for Star Wars diehards, incidentally.)
Unfortunately, the violence has got Slaughter overworked, and he dashes about the bar throwing patrons into folding tables, smashing chairs over their heads, and in general spends the next five minutes showing off his amazing WRESTLING MOVES. Eventually the beleaguered Navnal SHOUTS at him to stop, and he confusedly halts in mid-throw.
"What is it, Mistress Navnal?" he says.
"Cool it, Slaughter," she says. "We have visitors." She nods meaningfully at the Jedi.
He shuffles over and offers them a complimentary DRINK on Lifeday.
The three Jedi explain that they're looking for someone who matches these footprints. Amazingly enough, Navnal RECOGNIZES the feet, and tells the Jedi that they belong to Melgor, an evil bounty hunter. Perhaps they should look down at the Coruscant SPACEPORT.
CUT TO: Melgor, who is discussing the theft of the Yar-Yar bird with Darth Sidious again. Sidious is angry that Melgor has botched the crime, and Melgor tells him not to worry. He's hidden in a place where no one will find him. "Have you solved the secret of the Yar-Yar bird?" hisses Sidious - and Melgor is working on it. He spends the next ten minutes singing the bird a CROONING FOLK SONG, and continually gets bitten on the nose at the wrong moments by the humorous BIRD.
CUT BACK TO: The intrepid heroes go down there and find a single technician working, but happily it turns out to be the "HEY VERN" GUY. Sporting his usual baseball cap, he keeps asking the Jedi a stream of nonsensical technical questions for a full twenty MINUTES. Eventually, using Jedi Mind techniques, they manage to worm out of him that Melgor is in a hidden compartment deep inside this very spaceship.
They enter the SPACESHIP. It is very large. Anakin exclaims that "Gosh, we could wander around for years and never find Melgor!"
Obi-Wan KNEELS down next to Anakin and looks at him seriously. "There's only one hope," he says. "You must get in touch with your feelings, young Padawan. You must feel the love you have for your Yar-Yar bird. This is the only way."
Mace Windu STANDS around uselessly, WONDERING why he didn't get to do anything of interest in this movie either.
Anakin scrunches up his cute little face and concentrates on the Yar-Yar bird. In Melgor's secret chamber, the Yar-Yar bird suddenly gets a dreamy look on its face, releases Melgor's nose from its BEAK, and suddenly starts cawing joyously.
"I know where it IS!" shouts Anakin, and leads them effortlessly through a maze of corridors to Melgor's hideout. Melgor is SURPRISED when the three Jedi enter, lightsabers blazing. Thinking fast, he DESTROYS the commlink to Darth Sidious and stands with his hands up.
"Why did you want the Yar-Yar bird, Melgor?" says Obi-Wan.
"Oh, who cares?" says Anakin, hugging the decrepit little bird. "I have my Yar-Yar back. It may be ugly, but this Yar-Yar bird is the most beautiful thing in the whole galaxy to me!"
With that, the Yar-Yar bird EXPLODES into a burst of light and beauteous flame. Out of it steps a golden PHOENIX.
"What?" says Anakin.
"It is the secret of the Yar-Yar bird," says Obi-Wan, grinning inanely. "It is, in reality, one of the most beautiful and powerful creatures in the universe - and it can grant wishes. But it will only change when someone loves it wholeheartedly and without greed. You, Anakin... you were that love."
"And I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for this meddling kid!" shouts Melgor.
"Anakin, it can grant you any wish. It can bring Qui-Gon back to life. It can make you a Jedi Knight now. The question is: What do you want?"
Anakin LOOKS at the bird, who looks at him sadly. There is a trace of the old Yar-Yar bird in the new PHOENIX's eyes. He nods resolutely and says what he wants:
"It's spent all this time making other people happy - but has it gotten anything for itself? I could spend my wish making me happy, but... Lifeday is about making other people happy.
"I wish the Yar-Yar bird was free," he states.
"You have learned your lessons well, young Padawan," says Obi-Wan.
In a FLASH, the Yar-Yar bird is gone. CUT TO Darth Sidious, who is pounding his evil fists on a control panel and shouting, "That Yar-Yar bird was mine! That Yar-Yar bird was mine!"
CUT BACK TO: The Junior Jedi, doing a celebratory SONG AND DANCE number, led by Rosie O'Donnell and Celine Dion. A troupe of Jedi Knights engage in a fanciful LIGHTSABER battle (the troops being played by none other than MUMMENSCHANZ) while Slaughter happily tosses Jedi Knights to and fro. Queen Amidala even makes an appearance, although strangely enough she never speaks and it really doesn't look much like Natalie Portman underneath all that makeup.
The only one who does not join in the celebrations is Anakin, crying tiny sick tears in the corner. A mysterious VOICE emanates from behind him.
"Why do you weep, my friend?"
Anakin turns around. It is the GHOST OF QUI-GON (played by Liam Neeson)!
"Qui-Gon, I miss that bird."
"Well," says the grave and wise dead Jedi, "If there is one thing I have learned in my lifetime, it is this: If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was yours to begin with. If it never returns, it was never yours anyway."
"But I loved that bird!"
"Well, here's good news, then: Here it is now!"
And the BIRD returns in a dazzling flash of COLORS. Kwiza and Kwyza, the Jedi twins, immediately apologize to Anakin for hurting his feelings - he had the best present in the whole class! Anakin immediately joins in the celebration with the bird flying overhead, as everyone dances joyously to a remix of "The Yub-Yub Song".
I stepped out of the room bone-weary and exhausted... but gratified. This would force Lucas' hand. This would give him the kick in the butt it would take to make Star Wars, Episode II the truly great film that we all deserved.
I took a very long bath. And then set out to find a PRODUCER.