For the lighter side of the Star Wars universe, LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out offers up an animated combination of characters from the original and prequel trilogies. Inspired by the popular video game series, The Empire Strikes Out is a 22-minute special that originally aired in September, 2012 on Cartoon Network. Just as in the games, all the characters are rendered as LEGO figures.
If that running time caught your attention, I don’t blame you. Unlike the earlier LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace, there are no special features on this DVD-only release. The “bonus” is an exclusive Darth Vader LEGO figure, which is admittedly pretty cool (Padawan came with a Young Han Solo figure). It’s also worth noting that the retail price is reasonable. But if the idea of buying a 22-minute DVD with no extra content doesn’t sit well with you, considering yourself warned.
As for the film itself, it’s a breezily entertaining treat that pokes lighthearted fun at both the old films and the new. I found myself chuckling at more than a few of the gags, including Bib Fortuna manning a cell phone kiosk (“Look sir, Droids!” exclaims one storm trooper). It’s kind of a kick seeing characters like Darth Maul, Jar Jar Binks, and Watto interacting with the likes of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. Picking up roughly after the destruction of the first Death Star, the alternate-universe plot focuses on Emperor Palpatine’s desire to build a second one. It’s up to Luke and the Rebel Alliance to foil the plans.
Describing any more of the story or jokes would ruin the surprises. Suffice it to say the film is clever enough to poke fun at the infamous Vader line “Noooooooooo!” that Lucas worked into the Blu-ray version of Return of the Jedi. That alone made it worth my time. A running gag involving a gaggle of groupies chasing Luke everywhere he goes was fun too. They even force Luke to don a cheap Vader costume at one point (R2-D2 disguises himself as an ewok). In the style of an Airplane! or Naked Gun movie, LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out packs a lot of jokes into 22 minutes.
For a welcome touch of authenticity, several cast members from the films voice their characters, including Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Ahmed Best as Jar Jar, Brian Blessed as Boss Nass, Andy Secombe as Watto, and even a couple high ranking Imperials (Kenneth Colley as Admiral Piett and Julian Glover as General Veers).