'The Star Wars Holiday Special' was the joke in the 'Star Wars' franchise that was never meant to be.
It's crept up here and there, a nod and a wink in 'The Mandalorian', but generally, Lucasfilm has poured concrete over its grave, built a motorway on top of it, and refused to acknowledge its existence. For decades, it existed on the internet via a grainy VHS transfer that was passed around forums.
Therefore, it's fascinating to see Disney not only acknowledge its existence, but then try to provide something close to a sequel to it in 'The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special', a 40-minute short feature that takes place on the run-up to Life Day, the placeholder holiday of the 'Star Wars' universe.
Rey - voiced not by Daisy Ridley, but by Helen Sadler - is trying to teach Finn - again, not voiced by John Boyega, but by Omar Miller - the ways of the Jedi, convinced that she herself can be as good a teacher as her master, Luke Skywalker, was. Consulting the Jedi texts that survived 'The Last Jedi', Rey takes off to a remote planet where the past is accessible through a small gem that creates a portal, thus allowing her to travel to famous scenes from the franchise.
Credit where it's due, this kind of capering would have been highly unlikely under George Lucas' stewardship, and at the same time, there wouldn't have been enough movies in the franchise to warrant it. By all accounts, the jokes and the comedy are aimed at every stripe of 'Star Wars' fan - from the very young enjoying the broad slapstick to older fans getting a jolt out of Han Solo shooting Greedo first without hesitation.
Again, this being LEGO and Disney, the jokes never veer beyond child-safe because, well, why would it? It's a LEGO version of 'Star Wars', of course. Yet, it does give some rope to people who had issues with 'The Rise of Skywalker' and how the Emperor returned, including a very pointed, straight-down-the-camera acknowledgement of just how ridiculous it was. Beyond all that, the story taps into the inter-generational nature of 'Star Wars', how it often is the case that older fans passed on their love of 'Star Wars' to their own children, and does it in such a way that it's hard not to be sentimental about it all.
Clocking in at just under three-quarters of an hour, the story never overstays its welcome, and the jokes run from moment to moment with little space for a breath - just as this kind of endeavour should have it. Sure, there might only be a glimmer of the original cast involved - Billy Dee Williams, Kelly Marie Tran and Anthony Daniels have maybe a line or two each - but there's enough goodwill around this to make it a worthwhile watch for young and old fans alike.