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Savant Short Review:

Thumb Wars

Thumb Wars
Image Entertainment
1999 / Color / 1:37 / 29m.
Written and Directed by Steve Odekirk & Paul Marshal

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Here we are, just a few weeks from the DVD release of a certain, uh, anticipated title. Perfect timing for the novelty spoof of this sawed-off DVD.

Thumb Wars is a slightly slicker pro stab at the scores of mostly web-based Star Wars parodies that have been making the rounds for last three years. Fueled by fan zeal and the lack of official releases, these homegrown mini shows range from a 'Cops' reality TV takeoff featuring beleagured storm troopers, to full-out effects extravaganzas. That the homemmade effects in these shows are of such high quality is a whole separate issue - the fact that they show a real sense of humor that has fled the Star Wars franchise is more interesting.

Thumb Wars seeks to out-gun the homemade shows with a slicker presentation, making what the net offered as the obsessive work of creative fans, into a bigger product made with the aim to top the perceived market.

The novelty in this case is a good one. It revolves around a single bizarre and creative visual - digitally transplanted human facial features that turn ordinary thumbs into talking, smirking, grimacing 'finger puppets'. An oversized mouth is topped by a pair of eyes cleverly pushed too close together. Using the limiless possibilities of the human face, this gag succeeds in sustaining interest no matter what happens onscreen. It's what we call a cute trick, and it's a lot more versatile than previous gags like the popular 'Dorf' videos of years back.

Is Thumb Wars funny? There are a lot of solid laughs, but most of the humor is meant to derive straight from the mini-recreation of Star Wars scenes. These are very good and certainly not done cheaply. Everything is sufficiently altered, of course, from the originals. The characters all have the expected funny parody names.

Princess Bunhead seemingly rips off the original 1977 Star Wars parody Hardware Wars, with miniature pastries glued to someone's fingertips to represent her hairdo. One does have the feeling that pros are moving in on territory pioneered by starry-eyed amateurs.

Neither fall-down funny nor the ultimate parody of Lucas or his empire, Thumb Wars has little or no sense of irony or satire, just jokes, folks, so you don't get any sense of anything building while you watch, no sophomoric rush of coolness like that which accompanies the better episodes of MST3K. Also included are two 'trailers' for proposed Thumb sequels, ribbing Titanic and The Blair Witch Project. These are twice as funny as the main feature, and point to what should be the real venue for the Thumbian antics - blackout sketches on Saturday Night Live or a similar variety setting.

The disc has a running commentary track from Thumbmasters Steve Odekirk and Paul Marshall. An accomplished screenwriter with several comedy hits to his credit, Odekirk is a slick comedian. The track is yet another self-parody, however, and after you realize the pair are pulling your pinkie, there's not much point to hanging in there. About the biggest insider scoop you get is learning the names of the finger puppeteers behind the various clean-scrubbed hands on view.

Thumb Wars looks just fine, with bright colors and nicely mixed sound-alike approximations of the Williams themes. Other attractions include storyboards, and an interview with the 'Gabba the Butt' Thumb actor.

Savant thought Thumb Wars was pretty amusing, if not the laugh sensation of the millenium. Viewer laugh mileage may vary. The bizarre faces of the Thumb People were enough to hook me; if this studio portrait of Princess Bunhead makes you want to laugh, this show might be for you.

The disc comes packed with a coupon for a Cinnabon cinnamon roll ...!

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Thumb Wars rates:
Movie: Cute
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Two Gag trailers, commentary
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: October 4, 2001

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