It’s gotta be a genetic thing, kinda like the Grandma Gene; you know how when women first become grandmothers, they suddenly acquire a camera that seems permanently affixed to their arm like salamanders sprout a sliced off tail? Something similar must be at work. How else to explain why so many young aspiring filmmakers feel that their way to success, fame and fortune lies in making a bad “Star Wars” parody. After all, didn’t George Lucas do that himself with Return of the Jedi?
Yet, here comes another one, this time courtesy of director and multi-hyphenate Garrett Gilchrist and his band of determined, well-intentioned young acolytes. “Dr. Fred’s Episode III – The Phantom Movie” is produced under their Orange Cow Productions banner. Not to sound rude, but I’d rather not sit through the first two episodes after watching this confused and jumbled mess.
The plot seems to follow, um, “Zedi” Masters Whis-kei Jinn (David Ashe) and his apprentice Jar Jar Boinks (Justin Bielawa) in their quest to procure a television time slot for Orange Cow’s “Dr. Fred’s” show. With the help of the haplessly incognito Queen Amadeus (Liz Dimenno), our heroes criss-cross the galaxy poking fun and/or paying homage to Lucas films (American Graffiti, “THX-1138”), aping other science fiction films, and mercilessly excoriating Trekkers and “Phantom Menace’s” loping “Kick Me” sign, Jar Jar Binks.
Decent parodies of a single film generally hold one’s interest for about as long as the typical “Saturday Night Live” sketch, which makes “Episode III’s” 109 minutes almost unbearable. Produced with far more pluck and enthusiasm than any sort of apparent storytelling or technical skills, “Episode III” trips all over its impossibly dense storyline, constant in-jokes, and indulgent self-references. Only Gilchrist’s Lord Hologram, a spot-on spoof of Jedi’s electrically supercharged evil Emperor, was even slightly amusing.
The unmistakable raw enthusiasm Gilchrist and the rest of the Orange Cow troupe display is readily apparent. The advice from here is to drop the juvenile spoofs like “Dr. Fred’s Episode III – The Phantom Movie” and fumble towards finding a voice of their own.