I'd always heard a lot about the infamous star wars holiday special. Recently, I finally actually watched it, because there's no way it could be as bad as people say it is....can it? Really, the one thing is certainly is is confusing. I suppose I would say I'm a casual fan of Star Wars. I'm a fan enough to know about star wars stuff, but not a fan enough to get annoyed about it, and I tried to go into the Holiday Special with as open a mind and as low expectations as possible.
The whole thing starts with a space scene. Han and Chewbacca (both played by their original actors) are trying to escape an imperial blockade to get to Chewbacca's family on their home planet of Kashyyyk (which is pronounced "kazook" throughout the special) in time for life day. As they jump into hyperspace to escape an imperial ship, a narrator delivers the opening credits, and introduces all the characters (all of whom are played by their original actors) along with some special guest stars for the programme. He also introduces chewbacca's family. His wife Malla, his father Itchy, and his son.....Lumpy! I do question who chose these names, and what kind of parent would name their child lumpy. Even a wookie parent.
After that we see Chewbacca's family for the first time, in a very long and awkward scene. A lot of the scenes with Chewbacca's family throughout the special are honestly pretty difficult to watch. There's no dialogue in any recognisable language, only in wookee, and it makes the scenes feel really awkward, like you as the viewer are spying on their life. There's a random almost 4-minute sequence of Lumpy watching some circus acrobats (I've no idea why either) and Malla tries to locate Chewbacca using what looks like a TRS-80 computer, with no luck. They get a video call from Luke Skywalker who's trying to fix his X-wing fighter, and assures them Han and Chewie will be there in time for life day.
Malla calls a trading post to see when a rug she ordered will arrive. We're then introduced to trading post guy, a character who has a name but I can't be bothered to remember it, who is trying to sell an imperial guard all kinds of tat. He makes some awful jokes and then DARTH VADER! Wipe to some imperial cruisers, and Darth Vader is talking to a general about starting a blockade and searching for rebels.
Malla is cooking food. There's a really strange cooking show she's following to help her cook Bantha meat. I think the cooking show host was one of the guests, it's just incredibly weird and confusing. Oh yeah, and the cooking show host has 4 arms. Did I mention that? Apparently she became a canon character in 2016. Huh.
This might be the right time to mention the weird format of the holiday special. It feels like it can't decide if it wants to be a star wars movie or a variety show with a bunch of seemingly random Star Wars related (and completely not Star Wars related) segments, like this cooking show. A large amount of it seems to be spent with the characters watching some display showing something that isn't the star wars holiday special.
A message comes through from the empire saying that they're searching people's homes. Trading post guy comes to deliver some gifts to the family. Malla and Lumpy both get some unknown devices, and Itchy gets a tape for the "Mind Evaporator" which is this weird VR chair thingy and watches it. I don't think this scene could be more awkward if it tried. Old Man Wookie Itchy sitting in a chair making moaning noises while he watches a young human flirt with him and sing a weird song about being together. It's made even more awkward by the sexual tension around the whole scene, I felt like I was basically watching someone watch the Star Wars equivalent of softcore porn.
Once that...thing is out of the way, we cut to Leia and C-3PO doing...something. They make a connection through to Malla and assure her Han and Chewie will be there, and we find out trading post guy is a member of the rebel alliance. Han and Chewie land on Kashyyyk. Oh yeah, trading post guy is here throughout all of this. So that must mean he was watching Itchy's..experience. So was Malla. That makes it EVEN MORE AWKWARD SOMEHOW! Luckily, some imperial troops show up and start to trash the place looking for rebel things, which at least cuts the awkwardness a little. They almost find the video link Malla uses to communicate with the rebels, but fail. Trading post guy tries to sell them some wallets, because he can't seem to go 2 seconds without selling someone a wallet. They distract one of the troops by showing him a Jefferson Starship music video (which is shown in full). Cool.
Malla wants Lumpy to shut up, so he sits down to watch a cartoon. That cartoon is actually pretty alright, it's a star wars story, although it's notable for being the first time BOBA FETT appears in star wars. That's right, a lot of people's favorite character showed up first in the holiday special. The animation is alright, the art style is slightly unusual but it's well made and the animation is full of life. Han and Luke get a sleeping virus and Boba Fett helps them get the cure, but sells them out to the empire. This cartoon is easily one of the best parts of the special, and it's no wonder it's the part that most effort has been put into preserving. The imperials trash Lumpy's room and it makes him sad.
Lumpy watches an Amorphiian video, showing him how to put together the device he got as a gift (which happened to be a radio transmitter). Amorphians apparently suffer from sudden losses of power and jerky movements, so the person in the video is basically a youtube poop. There's stuttering, tape stops, and random video glitches all over the place, but he manages to put the thing together.
The video screen pipes up again, apparently because there's some mandatory imperial viewing about life on Tatooine. A weird guy tries to chat up the bartender at a cantina. It's announced there's going to be a curfew on Tatooine, and the bartender sings a song about how it's the last drink and it's goodnight but hopefully the bar will stay open.
Back on Kashykkk, Lumpy uses his kit-built transmitter to forge a signal telling the imperials to go back to base. They do so, but leave a stormtrooper behind. The stormtrooper comes and destroys the transmitter, but then, out of nowhere, Han and Chewie show up, and kick his ass. There's a wholesome wookie family moment (involving Han, because apparently he had a relationship with Chewbacca's family) and then everyone holds some weird orbs. Suddenly, the world goes pitch dark, and everyone is wearing robes, and walking to a light at the edge of the screen. Because...that happened.
Turns out, everyone is here in this weird life day void, and all wearing the same robes. Princess Leia sings a life day song (because of course Leia sings something, this movie is full of songs), and we get a flashback to a bunch of scenes from the actual star wars movie we didn't watch. The End.
So, is it as bad as people say it is? Well, yes and no. It's certainly bad - the plot is basic and has some serious holes and nonsense, some scenes (some of the family scenes, the cooking show, Itchy's "experience") are just plain awkward to watch, and a lot of the scenes, especially musical ones, come out of completely nowhere. The ending makes no sense, and it's a confusing waste of time. But I find myself unable to get annoyed at it.
Sure, it's bad. But it's too confusing for me to be able to form a complete opinion on it. I certainly wouldn't recommend it (aside from maybe the boba fett cartoon) but it's an interesting bit of weird star wars history. If you want to watch something confusing that will make you question star wars even more than the new movies do, you can watch it, I guess.