Star Wars: The Clone Wars (not the 2002 video game Star Wars: The Clone Wars nor the 2003 traditionally animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars nor the forthcoming 2008 CG animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but rather the 2008 CG theatrical feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Maybe they shouldn't have given four different things all the same name?)
Like Citizen Kane, Star Wars: The Clone Wars delivers its exposition via a faux-newsreel voiceover. As you might have guessed, the similarities end there. Clone Wars is one of the most annoying movies I have ever seen. It follows the adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they try to rescue Jabba the Hut's infant son from Count Dooku's evil clutches. It also introduces Ahsoka Tano as a young padawan of Anakin's, who he insists on calling "Snips" for no clear reason. (People apparently do not have real names in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 CG feature film). "Snips" refers to Anakin as "Skyguy," and they both refer to Jabba's son as "stinky." The fact that no one calls Dooku "Dooky" represents a serious lapse in continuity.)
On a Star Wars scale of character annoyingness, where JarJar is a 10, A New Hope's Obi-Wan is a 0, and Luke Skywalker is a 5 or so (whiny but tolerable), Snips is somewhere in the 9 to 9.5 range. Everything she says is whiny, and her "character growth" with her "mentor" "Skyguy" is as contrived and laughable as anything outside of the Padme-Anakin scenes in Episode 3. Skyguy himself registers an annoyingness rating of about 8.5, which, while intolerable, is a good deal lower than the Hayden Christiensen* Skyguy of episodes 2 and 3 (who I rate at around 9.999).
This story's plot is so simultaneously simplistic and convoluted, and its dialogue so bad, that I have a hard time believing that it wasn't written by George Lucas. Three writers were credited, but I will leave their names out of this review to protect their families; you can look them up if you desire, but I must try to protect the innocent. I've decided to ladle most of the non-Lucas blame on director Dave Filoni. You might remember that I included this movie in my feature about late-summer movies to look forward to. Well, I did so based on the fact that Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the 2003 traditionally animated TV series) was so excellent, and it looked like this movie would effectively translate Genndy Tartakovsky's handdrawn saga of amusingly stylized, plotless, action-driven nonsense to the big screen.
Fail. Of course, part of that has to do with the story; whereas Tartakovsky ignored both plot and character in favor of sheer action-mayhem, this attempt at a coherent and "moving" story is grating. But mostly, the character designs here suck. Or rather, they suck when they try to move. As stills, or in a brief trailer, they seem to be some version of Tartakovsky's visions: charmingly elongated cartoon caricatures of the various bad actors appearing in Episodes 1-3. But in Filoni's hands, they are wooden and awkward creations. They can't cross their arms, or lift a lightsaber, or even speak without appearing to be crude puppets manipulated by drunken sloths. Every bit of movement in this film belies anatomy, tortures animation, and gives Tartakovsky a bad name.
As near as I could tell, the audience I saw this with enjoyed it very much. But my friends and I were the only adults in the theater without children. It seems that, with Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 CG animated theatrical feature film) we've finally come full circle. Lucas feared that the original Star Wars would only appeal to children, and could succeed only through merchandising tie-ins. Almost exactly 30 years later, he's finally produced a film that only a four year-old could love. Which, after all, seems to have been his dream all along.
Having gotten all of that out of the way, there is one bit of this film that deserves unmitigated praise. It turns out that Jabba has an uncle. An uncle who is purple, dresses in feathers, wears makeup, and speaks in a voice that is more than a little reminiscent of Truman Capote's. Yes, the Star Wars universe has its first ever Hut drag queen. Awesome.
*I probably misspelled that name, but I'm not bothering to look it up.