A Disturbance in the Force Image

A Disturbance in the Force

By Jason Delgado | December 11, 2023

NOW ON VOD! Growing up in the 80’s, you could not escape the pop culture phenomenon that was Star Wars if you tried. I had various action figures, T-shirts, video games, and an Empire Strikes Back lunch pail, and like many kids of that era, I still longed for more. I never saw the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special that is dissected in the fabulous documentary A Disturbance in the Force by directors Jeremy Coon and Steve Kozak. If I had seen the fifteen-minute opening sequence where the television audience confusingly watched Chewbacca’s family of Wookies only utilize their famous indiscernible yelps without any subtitles for what would seem like an eternity, even a humongous Star Wars fan such as myself would’ve said, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

The list of pop culture talking heads in this movie is almost as staggering as the Holiday Special is weird, with luminaries such as Weird Al Yankovic, Seth Green, Kevin Smith, Bruce Vilanch, Patton Oswalt, Donny Osmond, the late great Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Scheer, Bobcat Goldthwait, and many others (along with clips from pop shows such as Conan, The Simpsons, and The Goldbergs). These top-notch comedians and entertainers lend an instant credibility and fun factor for nerds such as me. Still, when you give them the easy lay-up setup of commenting on exceptionally bad and strange 70s variety television disguised as Star Wars, you get an extra layer of comedic gold. 

Seth Green tells a fascinating story about how George Lucas met with Warner Brothers after the first Star Wars, where they told him in so many words that he would be a washed-up hack in no time. Lucas left that meeting furious, vowing to make more Star Wars hits, and supposedly, the Holiday Special was born. Many more interesting and comedic backstories in A Disturbance in the Force try to explain how and why the television special ended up the way it did. 

“…Star Wars Holiday Special…is dissected…”

It’s also highly entertaining to watch the clips of the Holiday Special itself that are shown in the documentary because the only other way to do so is through low-quality bootlegs. The film details how the Special was only shown on TV once before being locked away and told by Lucas never to be mentioned again by the original film cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford (who were forced in their contracts to appear in the Special). George Lucas famously said that he hated it so much that he wished he could personally smash every copy with a hammer, which only added to the lore for Star Wars fans. 

The most out-there scene in a two-hour show full of them in the Star Wars Holiday Special has to be when the grandpa Wookie of the family puts on an ahead-of-its-time VR set and makes uncomfortable grunts of joy while watching 70’s star Diahann Carroll tempt him with sultry lines and looks in a way that can only be described as soft-core porn. If you find things like this laugh-out-loud funny in a disturbing way, then you will love this documentary. 

The nostalgia for both Star Wars and bad 70’s variety television is on full display in this movie, and as a child of that time, I’m here for it. Donny and Marie Osmond dancing around with stormtroopers, the Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur doing an awkward cantina song and dance with aliens, and Jefferson Starship performing a song with extra cheesy effects even for the 1970s are a few more highlights (or lowlights). Even George Lucas does not escape unscathed, with his strange concepts of Life Day (a sort of Festivus-like made-up holiday) and wanting Raquel Welch to save the galaxy with some scantily clad dancing. This documentary is right up my wheelhouse, but it should be fascinating for non-Star Wars fans as well.

A Disturbance in the Force covers everything about the Star Wars Holiday Special in such a hilarious and entertaining way that it would make even Darth Vader chuckle. The Force is strong with this one.

A Disturbance in the Force (2023)

Directed and Written: Jeremy Coon, Steve Kozak

Starring: Weird Al Yankovic, Seth Green, Kevin Smith, Bruce Vilanch, Patton Oswalt, Donny Osmond, Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldthwait, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Conan O'Brien, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

A Disturbance in the Force Image

"…the Force is strong with this one."

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