The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

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Rrrrraaaawwwwwrrrrrrrmmmmphhhh. Romf The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), runnnarrd Chewbacca ragggggggg, Mala (Mickey Morton), roarrph Lumpy (Patty Maloney), ran rumnnnnfffrrr Itchy (Paul Gale). Romgg eughhhhhhhphhh rom rum raaallllrrrrr. Romphhh rarrrrnnnnn runslughhnnff rowrrr ragggg!

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Rawwwhhhhhhh!

Rowaraggg rrrawrr sromph romf rwrrrr. Romph rawrr rugnhhhhhllll, Kashyyyk, rammmmph regggg Wookies. Rommph rahmm, and then Mala finally calls Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and R2-D2 (credited only as R2-D2, poor Kenny Baker), which means we finally get to hear someone who can speak English in this thing. Since the two of them can’t communicate, Mala pantomimes her concerns to Luke: her husband Chewbacca hasn’t arrived home in time for Life Day, the Wookie Christmas, and she’s getting worried. Luke shrugs it off and pretends to care for a minute or two before hanging up on her, fulfilling his contractual obligation so the producers can attach his name to the TV special.

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Mark Hamill plastered in make up in attempt to hide his scarred face following a recent car accident.

Released after the success of Star Wars (1977), the Holiday Special is not really a new chapter in the Star Wars story; instead it’s a quirky variety show set in the same universe. The made-for-television special features celebrity guests performing odd sketches and musical numbers, strung together by the unintelligible narrative of Chewbacca’s Wookie family growling at each other. The plot is the equivalent of waiting in real time for dad to come home from work on Christmas Eve. It’s incredibly painstaking, boring even, yet somehow psychedelic and captivating. It’s so profoundly unusual that it’s hard to look away.

While Mala prepares the family dinner she puts on the TV for her son, Lumpy. But it’s not just a TV, it’s a 3D hologram circus act with some of the most irritating repetitive music of all time. It’s hard to decide what’s more annoying; the music, or the Wookie growling.

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I’ll call it an even draw.

Later, when local trader Saun Dann (Art Carney) stops by to peddle his wares, Mala calls up Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and unlike the call with Luke, they have Saun there to avoid translation issues. BUT, just like during the call with Luke, Leia and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) barely seem to care that Chewbacca and Han are missing.

The rest of the special mostly features Art Carney as he sort of…. hangs around in Chewbacca’s house, padding the running time with his grouchy stuttering. He sells Itchy, Chewbacca’s father, something that is essentially Wookie porn. It’s a virtual reality machine that creates a spectacle before his very eyes, featuring Diahann Carroll singing a seemingly endless song about seducing the old wookie and his massive underbite. Carroll’s sex object character is credited only as ‘Mermeia Holographic Wow’ in the special.

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I think ‘WOW’ is Star Wars for ‘boner.’

When the Empire finds out about possible rebel activity on the Wookie planet ‘Kazook’ (AKA Kashyyyk), they blockade the planet and imperial troops go door-to-door, searching all Wookie treehouse-matte-paintings for the missing rebels. When they get to Chewbacca’s place, the imperials join Art Carney and just sort of hang around and watch TV. First Art shows them a Jefferson Starship music video, then they watch Beatrice Arthur sing a song to people in a bar on Tatooine.

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Where else could you see Beatrice Arthur cuddle a rat creature?

So while the imperials search Chewbacca’s house for evidence of sympathy for the rebellion, Lumpy decides this would be the perfect time to watch an animated short about one of his father’s adventures. Somehow in their search of the house, the Empire’s agents don’t notice Lumpy, sitting out in the open, watching a cartoon about rebel leaders Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa.

I will say this though – I actually do enjoy this animated sequence in The Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s the most cohesive thing among all the rest of the nonsense. Maybe it’s not that great; maybe it just stands out as being ‘watchable’ next to everything else, but I still enjoy it. The animation looks a bit cooky at times, and Han Solo’s face is all wrong, but it’s a coherent story that actually introduced the world to Boba Fett two years before the release of The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

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What’s wrong with Han’s faccceee?

As the animation ends, the imperial intruders are all called back to base without reason. They obey their orders, leaving one stormtrooper guard behind. Moments later, Han and Chewie finally make it home, having somehow avoided the planetary blockade (this is starting to sound like The Phantom Menace (1999)). Han and Chewbacca take out the guard and the Wookie family is finally reunited, free to celebrate Life Day.

So what exactly is Life Day? Well, it’s when the Wookies walk in space wearing red robes holding glowing orbs until they are absorbed by the light of a star. Then they reappear in some rocky cave with the other Wookies. Luke, Leia, and Han are also there, and Leia sings a Life Day anthem to the tune of the Star Wars theme song.

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So did Han, Luke, Leia, R2 and 3PO all walk into the sun too?

As every Star Wars fan knows, the Holiday Special is a timeless classic. Obviously it was made after the popularity of the first Star Wars film, and it was purely a cash grab, but what’s profoundly confusing to me is that it ever aired at all. I understand why they created it, but once they had a completed product, I’m amazed they didn’t pull it and put on some All in the Family reruns in its place. The networks had to realize how bad the finished special was. They could have nipped it in the bud and buried it forever, but I’m so glad they didn’t. It’s among my favourite holiday movies, and I will cherish it forever and always.

If you haven’t seen this festering lump of garbage, stop what you’re doing and watch it now. Until then, wishing you all a Happy Life Day and I’ll see you in the New Year!

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