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'Star Wars' a feast of freaky beasts

May 25, 1999

It didn't seem entirely odd that the new "Star Wars" movie had a character named Jar Jar. I just assumed one of the Kennedys had landed a role.

But Jar Jar, it turns out, is the steroidal-ostrich-like character who is absorbing many of the body blows from the segment of the population that is dissatisfied with George Lucas' latest effort.

Jar Jar stands about 8 feet tall. He has considerable negative speech pathologies that render him nearly unintelligible, which is little wonder since his considerable tongue can snap froglike out of his mouth and snatch food products from faraway places.

Jar Jar has basset hound ears, and good biceps but bad eyes, which sit up on stilts above his head as if the designer had been reading too many Far Side cartoons.

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I liked Jar Jar, but I am in the clear minority. Most true "Star Wars" believers sniff that he is too silly, too annoying and too distracting from the serious business at hand.

Oh really? Let's review. We're speaking about a flick where a talking humming bird/blue jay hybrid hovers around an extraterrestrial salvage yard hawking used turbines out of junked spacecraft to a couple of mind readers who can stop bullets with a glorified flashlight and need to repair their craft so they can protest some sort of NAFTA trade agreement gone bad with a queen who has what appears to be a sushi wrapper on her lower lip - and people bust on Jar Jar because he's not plausible enough?

Hello. Earth to nerds. It's not like we're dealing with a Spanish-American War documentary here. The whole plot is pretty darned goofy if you ask me. What's one more freakazoid character among friends?

Maybe that's why, as opposed to all the professional reviewers, I sort of liked the movie. Although, as I sit here typing I can't seem to recall its official name. Probably not a good sign, huh?

That's part of my advantage; having not followed the previous "Star Wars" minutiae and having no preconceived biases, I was free to enjoy the movie without the burden of being expected to assign it a place in "Star Wars" history.

I admit, releasing episodes IV, V and VI and then going back and producing episodes I, II and III seems a little odd. That's like watching the second act of "Ragtime" then going back 20 years later and seeing the first act to find out why the musician was so torqued off at J.P. Morgan.

It's amazing that I could tolerate the movie at all, seeing as how I have serious issues with computer-generated monsters and child heroes. And "Star Wars" - you're going to make me look this up, aren't you - "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" - is rather like a cross between "Jurassic Park" and "Home Alone," with a villain Darth Maul who looks like a poorly carved Halloween pumpkin and two Anglo-Saxon white knights.

The latter three are all in possession of something called "The Force," a spiritual, hypersensitive state of mindfulness and unparalleled cosmic power, invincibility and dominance that allows you to do pretty much anything you want except, if this movie is any gauge, stay alive. This Force of theirs doesn't appear to be much help in that regard, since the people who are possessed of it seem to die off with alarming frequency.

"Star Wars" movies are all about the struggle between good and evil, but I can't tell them apart. It would help if they'd wear uniforms, or at least do shirts and skins or something. The bad guys, looks-wise, are indistinguishable from the good and they all have similar names that sound like items on a menu at an Ethiopian restaurant.

"Yes garcon, I'd like to start off with a bowl of jedi and a basket of jawas then bring me the boba fett salad, the chewbacca, medium rare, with nute gunray for desert.

"To drink? Why what else but a frosty jar jar binks."




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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