Is the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special really that bad? Yes, yes it is. Read on, and I’ll explain why.
The Holiday Spirit Awakens
It’s December 1st, 2022. My girlfriend and I sit down to enjoy a Christmas movie, as the opening day of December has really put me in the festive mood. However, we aren’t about to indulge in any old Christmas movie, oh no. We sit down, naive glints of joy in our eyes, ready to witness the 1978 TV special, Star Wars: The Holiday Special. What could possibly go wrong?
At least, that’s the phrase that was repeating throughout my mind. For the uninitiated, the Holiday Special is a 1978 TV Christmas special starring the cast of the iconic 1977 film Star Wars on a mission to get everyone’s favorite walking carpet Chewbacca to his family in time for “Life Day”, the special’s equivalent of Christmas. Whilst this sounds cute enough, trust me when I say it’s not. Not remotely. It sucks.
The Walking Carpets Strike Back
I, for one, was quite excited. Surely it couldn’t be too bad watching some of my favorite characters participate in some holiday-themed hijinks, right? Right? Wrong. This is where the problem lies. Despite how it was advertised, the special barely features the beloved characters, and when they do appear, they are bizarrely made up, looking more like really good cosplays as opposed to, you know, the actual characters.
“Well, hang on”, you must be wondering, “if it isn’t about the Star Wars characters, who the hell is it about?”. Well, my friends, let me introduce you to Itchy, Lumpy, and Malla (who, for some reason, got a normal name). This lovely trio are Chewbacca’s family, his father, son, and wife, respectively. Instead of focusing on the new icons of Hollywood, the special centers around these miserable sods instead. Wonderful.
“Now don’t be silly Aaron”, I’m sure you’re thinking by now, “surely if Chewbacca had a family, I’d have heard of them. I’ve seen every Star Wars film twice!”. There’s a reason you haven’t. Utilizing some of the most unintentionally horrific practical effects of all time, these Wookies are simply unpleasant to look at (especially Itchy, dear god), and with no human characters around most of the time, it’s near impossible to understand what’s going on.
Of course, there are some human characters. Luke, Han, and Leia all make brief appearances throughout. There’s also a rather entertaining oddball called Saun, a family friend of the Wookies, whose cheesy one-liners and entertainingly cheeky performance keep the special somewhat afloat (although arguably, he prevents it from going any further than rock bottom, so it’s not saying much).
However, the other human characters make up the worst and most insufferable part of this special: the bizarre, irrelevant, and simply unentertaining (for the most part) cutaways. These are strange guest star segments, usually involving music, and almost always bizarre to the point of discomfort, especially one where Itchy watches a disturbingly provocative music video sung by a skimpy AI.
The two cutaways I shall give credit to for not being too awful are a rather fun “cult classic” animated segment that features the first-ever appearance of fan-favorite character Boba Fett, and a musical segment featuring a singing bartender on Tatooine that felt like a bizarre love-child between Star Wars and Oliver Twist. It was an assault on the ears, yet weirdly catchy.
The Phantom Special
Whilst I wish there was more to say on the special, there really isn’t. The production was a mess of disinterested talent, including a director who didn’t know how to utilize multiple cameras, a cast who have grown to despise it, and a George Lucas who was willing to contribute nothing more than the idea that it should only be about Wookies. Marvelous.
There’s also re-used footage from A New Hope whenever actual filmmaking skill was required, a segment where Chewbacca’s son learns to assemble what is either a games console or a type-writer from a malfunctioning man (yes, you read that right), and Carrie Fisher sings the closing musical number, so there’s that.
I feel like this should be the part where I say it’s not all bad, but that would be a lie, and I’m not that kind of journalist. It really is miserable to sit through, apart from a few unintentionally entertaining moments. As it is a piece of lost media, the special itself is not on Disney+ (it has never been rebroadcast), but if you really want to watch it, there’s a rather lovely copy on YouTube. Just don’t blame me when you hate it…