From the stars of cult hit Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes RiffTrax, audio commentaries you can play along with your favorite, or least favorite, blockbuster and/or B-grade films. As RiffTrax claims: “We don’t make movies, we make movies funny.” In this weekly series, we will be reviewing their Geek Speak-friendly offerings, in order of publication. This week:

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Riffed by: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy
Release Date: November 1, 2006

FROM RIFFTRAX.COM

Of all the many Binks in the world, who is the most skull-crushingly annoying? Is it the Binks Company, the Canadian insurance brokers? Is it the U.S. manufacturers of spray guns, paint booths, and electrostatic spray equipment? Or is Jar Jar, the mouthy horse-lizard from the 4th Star Wars movie, appropriately titled Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace? If you said anything but number three, you are imprisonably insane!

THE RIFF

Clearly displeased with George Lucas throughout the entire film’s running time, Mike and Kevin give him hell for all the implied racism (though, at some point, shaming racist accents with yet more racist accents almost becomes racist in its own right). Likewise do Jar Jar Binks, the long political scenes, the general emotionlessness of the cast and, in particular, ten-year-old Jake Lloyd’s wooden delivery come in for some very stern mockery.

HIGHLIGHTS

RIC OLIE: Deflector shields up, at maximum.
RIFF: Other made up technical stuff enabled.

[Time counter reads 21:20 minutes.]
RIFF: Has this movie been on for three hours, or is it me?

OBI-WAN: I’m sorry for my behavior, Master. It is not my place to disagree with you about the boy.
RIFF: After all, I’m only thirty-eight years old.

ANAKIN: Oops, this is not good.
RIFF: And the kid nails his first movie review.

[The victory parade passes under an archway]
Hey, it’s the Arc de We-Weren’t-Quite-Able-to-Fail-Utterly-Despite-Our-Best-Efforts.

RUNNING GAGS

Queen Amidala’s outfits.
Jake Lloyd is a terrible actor.
The silly names.
Ani = Annie.
All the racism!
Senator Palpatine is evil.
The horror that is Jar Jar, of course.

ENOUGH ALREADY!

The simulated retching.
Mitchell, South Dakota. Even Mike agrees!

SCATALOGICAL INDEX

Pretty low.

GROANS

[re: The enormous Boss Nass]
RIFF: Who do you think they modelled this character after? John Goodman, or… maybe Chris Farley? Oh, it’s Rosie O’Donnell, right!

Sigh.

OBSCURE REFERENCES

stepin_fetchit[Jar Jar Binks meets Qui-Gon]
RIFF: And so debuts the most embarrassing character since Stepin Fetchit.

Stepin Fetchit is the alter-ego of actor and comedian Lincoln Perry (1902 – 1985), billed as “The Laziest Man in the World.” Through perpetuating horrid stereotypes, Perry was the first black actor to become a millionaire, enjoying a successful film career in the 1930s.

[Watto appears]
RIFF: I thought Eli Wallach died.

This is Watto:

watto

This is Eli Wallach:

EliWallach

[The partially-constructed C3PO awakens and speaks]
RIFF: [as Anakin] He’s built on the Roddy McDowall platform.

Roddy McDowall voiced V.I.N.Cent, the vaguely effeminate-sounding robot in Disney’s 1979 Star Wars clone, The Black Hole.

lumpyANAKIN: I actually saved the pod. Mostly.
RIFF: [as Anakin] I gave it to Lumpy Rutherford.

Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford, played by Frank Bank, was a friend of Wally Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver.

csn[re: Qui-Gon]
RIFF: The hair, the poncho, the next thing you know he’s gonna pull out a guitar and start singing “Judy Blue Eyes.”

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is a song by Crosby, Stills and Nash, known to rock long hair and ponchos on occasion.

starwarskid[Darth Maul kicks Obi-Wan’s lightsaber down a shaft]
RIFF: [as Obi-Wan] Oh man, I was gonna make a sweet video of me using that and post it on MySpace.

POOR STAR WARS KID!

ANAKIN: Woohoo!
RIFF: You know, Ritchie Van Dyke was less annoying than this little punk.

Presumably this is actually meant to be Ritchie Petrie, played by Larry Matthews, the saccharine little moppet of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

RIFFTRAX IN-JOKES

A reference to The Fifth Element.

OBLIGATORY STAR TREK AND/OR WARS REFERENCES

Well, yeah. Plenty of Star Wars, anyway.

BONUS! LORD OF THE RINGS REFERENCES

Hobbits.

VERDICT

C. Given how much material there was to work with here, dwelling on the general dissatisfaction with Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd and belabouring the invented names seems like picking some very low-hanging fruit indeed.

PURCHASE INFORMATION

Audio Download

NOTES

Film facts unearthed by Kevin while bored by the podrace: Norwegian film Flåklypa Grand Prix holds the record for the longest-running theatrical release in history (twenty-eight YEARS); the movie Barb Wire made less than $4 million worldwide.

About the author

RACHEL HYLAND

Rachel Hyland is Editor-in-Chief of Geek Speak Magazine and, she is pretty sure, the one true queen of Fantastica, raised in obscurity to protect her from the dark lord Sinisterium. If you see her magic sword, get in touch via twitter: @rachyland or Instagram: @rachelseesdeadpeople. The fate of the many worlds may just depend upon it.