I am not a die-hard Star Wars fan; I am a casual Star Wars fan at best. I am, however, a huge fan of bad TV and movies, so when my husband, many years ago, told me about the Star Wars Holiday Special, I couldn’t wait to see it – purely for the “it’s so bad it’s good” aspect of it. I was not disappointed.
My interest was immediately piqued when I heard that there was a documentary about the making of the Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired once – and only once – on November 17, 1978. A Disturbance in the Force is a feature-length documentary that gets a lot of people talking about the show with humor, with malice, with curiosity, but never with reverence. Co-directors Steve Kozak and Jeremy Coon treat the topic with respect; you never get the sense that they are looking to make fun of the Holiday Special, its nonsensical structure, its non-canonical characterizations, and its strange selection of guest stars.
Some of the biggest names attached to Star Wars – Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, George Lucas – unsurprisingly, were not interested in speaking with the directors about the Holiday Special. However, the directors do a fantastic job of digging up old interview footage, from TV talk shows to convention conversations, to red carpet interviews, of the stars talking about the special. And the people that they do get to speak to on camera range from familiar nerds like Kevin Smith and Seth Green to Star Wars Holiday Special writer Bruce Vilanch and director Steve Binder.
The first half-hour of the 90-minute documentary was devoted largely to showing how the original Star Wars film got its marketing off the ground (which, I suspect, could be a documentary in and of itself), as well as how weird the variety television specials of the 1970s were (again, another topic that could use a documentary of its own). While both topics are fascinating, I couldn’t help but feel like they were filler, as I was waiting to get to the Star Wars Holiday Special stuff.
What was included, that I had no idea about, was the equally-bad segment of The Donnie and Marie Show from 1977 that starred Donnie and Marie Osmond as Luke and Leia, with Kris Kristofferson as Han Solo and the Osmond Brothers as dancing Storm Troopers. It’s another treasure that can be found on YouTube. A Disturbance in the Force actually has Donnie Osmond himself talking about the ridiculousness of that segment.
Ultimately, A Disturbance in the Force is a fun little documentary. Perfect for the nerd in your life (even if that nerd is you). It’s not going to change anyone’s life, and die-hard Star Wars fans probably won’t learn anything new from this doc, but it’s a little gossipy and gives you a good look at how the sausage is made.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.