This notorious piece of kitsch is ostensibly about Han Solo’s efforts to get Chewbacca back to Kashyyyk (Really, George? Three Y’s?) in time to celebrate “Life Day” with his family, which raises some interesting questions about Chewie’s character. For one, what the hell is he doing gallivanting about the galaxy, making Kessel Runs in under 12 parsecs and such, when he has a wife and child back home waiting for him? A smuggler’s life is no life for a family man. However, once you get a look at the Clan Chewbacca, you can understand why he’d rather spend all his time cooped up in a cramped cockpit with a Corellian rogue. You can’t really appreciate what a handsome wookiee Chewie is until you see the misshapen swamp beasts he’s related to. His wife, while surely a nice person with a great personality, is clearly a Garbage Pail Kid in a bear suit, while his father looks like a cross between a reanimated Yeti and the sewer monster from Big Trouble in Little China. Plus, the fact that Chewie’s son Lumpawarrump is nicknamed “Lumpy” should give you some idea of why he’s ashamed to be seen with the hairy little abortion.
You will envy Chewie’s space-trotting lifestyle when you’re forced to spend the first 15 minutes of the Holiday Special trapped in his family's Ewok Village-meets-The Brady Bunch domicile. When they’re not grumbling at each other unintelligibly, they’re watching no less than 12 different televisual devices, on which various slumming celebrities perform embarrassing comedy routines and out-of-place song-and-dance numbers. Since the Holiday Special was produced by CBS, it’s possible that its makers found it difficult to believe that anyone—even denizens of a society in which hyperdrive technology makes it possible to travel to hundreds of wondrous worlds in the blink of an eye—would ever want to do anything besides sit on their hirsute asses and watch cheaply produced TV.
To be fair, Bea Arthur escapes her skit with her dignity. As the owner of the famous Cantina on Tattoine, she enforces last call by hustling her hideous clientele out the door with a phlegmatic but serviceable showtune while being romanced by a middle-aged schlub who pours his cocktails into a hole on the top of his head. Other musical interludes include a random but rockin’ appearance by Jefferson Starship, performing the brass-infused non-album track “Light the Sky on Fire.” The band appears in the form of magenta-hued holograms in some kind of Lite Brite contraption viewed by a visiting Imperial Naval Subofficer (for some reason accompanying ground troops on a routine patrol). The creepiest segment is when Chewie’s father Itchy puts on a virtual reality helmet and has implied cybersex with a glittering disco diva. You can’t see his fire-engine red doggy boner pop up like a tube of lipstick, but it’s clearly lurking just out of frame.
Throughout all these shenanigans (which also include a truly insane cooking show with a four-armed host and Art Carney limping through his poorly paced sketches like a wounded tauntaun), actual Star Wars characters occasionally pop up on various viewscreens. Since this was filmed soon after Mark Hamill had his face erased in a car accident, he’s wearing so much makeup that he looks like a silent movie star. Harrison Ford looks understandably embarrassed and in need of a cigarette the whole time, but Carrie Fisher, rocking the iconic cinnamon rolls for the last time, heroically lowers herself to the material by singing a ballad about love and togetherness and all that other crap people cared about in the seventies.
All in all, The Star Wars Holiday Special manages to be completely preposterous yet totally boring. Still, it was worth watching, not least because of the animated short that introduced the character of Boba Fett to the world. Once again, he manages to look really cool while doing absolutely nothing. I guess I’m just a sucker for a dude with a jetpack.