The makers of “The Surreal World – Tatooine: Episode 1.5” probably thought the idea of combining “The Phantom Menace” with MTV’s “The Real World” was enough to keep things fresh. It’s not. Maybe it’s because the trick of juxtaposing two unlikely properties is threatening to become old hat in the wake of “Swing Blade,” “George Lucas in Love,” “Stormtroopers,” et al. Or maybe it’s because director/co-writer Anthony C. Ferrante simply didn’t add enough energy or imagination to the mix. The upshot is, with only three or four real laughs spread out over 26 minutes, watching this video is tough slogging.
“The Surreal World” brings us a Tatooine that looks, appropriately, something like the San Fernando Valley and reimagines the “Phantom Menace” crew as the type of dysfunctional idiots familiar to fans of “The Real World.” Among the residents are: horn-dog and future Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker (Todd Rex); a wino-like Qui-Gon (M. Steven Felty, acting more like Dennis Hopper than Liam Neeson, perhaps on purpose); closeted gay robot C-3PO (Bruno); the oddly similar looking Padme and Queen Amidala (Nicole Hawkyard); and the harried future hermit, Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Duncan). There’s also jive-talking Mace (Curtis Casey), recycling material you probably received via e-mail back in 1998. And, oh yeah, Jar-Jar Binks is introduced and immediately killed. Naturally, no one cares.
Parody may not be the highest level of the filmmaking art, but that’s no excuse for the slackness which pervades “The Surreal World.” Even the title, which makes it sound as if we’re going to walk into a desert landscape filled with melting watches, or at least meet a backwards-talking dwarf, is weak.
Also, it’s often hard to tell just what is being parodied, partly because hardly any of the cast makes an effort to look or sound like whoever it is they’re supposed to be. A recurring joke about Anakin sleeping in tight, enclosed places mystified me completely. (Okay, at the risk of losing my geek credentials, I’ve only seen “Episode 1” once, so it’s possible I’m missing something here.) There are also some very lame jokes about “The Matrix” which didn’t make much sense. (Is Damien Tucker as “Thomas” supposed to remind us of Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix”? There’s almost no resemblance. Just saying “whoa” won’t cut it.)
To be fair, there are a few genuinely funny moments: C-3PO’s unrequited love for Anakin leads to a priceless “Real World” style zoom-in capturing the lovelorn robot’s sadness and envy as Darth-to-be gets it on with Amidala; and there’s an oddly realistic encounter with a pair of door-to-door evangelists for the Federation who are flogging the “Star Trek” Prime Directive like it’s “Watchtower” or “The Book of Mormon.”
Other than that, “The Surreal World” is only a hair funnier than Jar-Jar Binks. Meeso bored.