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Robot Chicken: Star Wars

Self-proclaimed "Star Wars" geeks, the producers of "Robot Chicken" deliver a big wet kiss to the film series' fans with this clever animated special -- a rapid-fire barrage of gags that includes George Lucas and Mark Hamill among its expansive vocal cast.

With:
Voices: Seth Green, Candace Bailey, Abraham Benrubi, Bob Bergen, Ahmed Best, Donald Faison, Joey Fatone, Keith Ferguson, Mark Hamill, Hulk Hogan, Tom Kane, George Lucas, Seth MacFarlane, Malcolm McDowell, Breckin Meyer, Dan Milano, Chad Morgan, Conan O'Brien, Robert Smigel, Adam Talbott, James Van Der Beek.

Self-proclaimed “Star Wars” geeks, the producers of “Robot Chicken” deliver a big wet kiss to the film series’ fans (including those who yanked out hair follicles throughout the second trilogy) with this clever animated special — a rapid-fire barrage of gags that includes George Lucas and Mark Hamill among its expansive vocal cast. Combined with an upcoming “Family Guy” that will also parody Lucas’ space odyssey, this spoofery adds to a growing cottage industry of tie-ins that, in many respects, are more satisfying than the source material’s recent chapters.

The major disclaimer here is that anybody who isn’t well-versed in “Star Wars” mythology will find themselves scratching their heads, but those who can quote dialogue like “I have a bad feeling about this” will find plenty to smile about — and a few places to laugh out loud — within this fast-paced half-hour, which deftly recreates Lucas’ far-far-away galaxy through surprisingly good stop-motion animation.

Among the best bets, we get to see the larger life of a peripheral character sliced and diced by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original “Star Wars'” Cantina scene; Darth Vader explaining the collective back story to Luke Skywalker, who finally throws up his hands in disgust at the lapses in logic; and the Emperor receiving a very-long-distance call from Vader, informing him that the Death Star has been obliterated by something he calls the “Aluminum Falcon.” Hell, there’s even time for a jab at George Bush and a riotous ice capades send-up, “Empire on Ice.”

Creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich also bring Lucas aboard, playing himself at a “Star Wars” convention — a bit reminiscent of William Shatner’s cathartic “Saturday Night Live” skit mocking “Star Trek” fanatics. Drawing liberally from the movies, the half-hour betrays its obvious affection for all things “Star Wars” while still highlighting the shortcomings and absurdities within those half-dozen movies — not least of which is the fan contingent that’s committed the entire exercise to memory.

It’s also reassuring to see a project under Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” banner that isn’t simply bizarre for its own sake, after several additions that have felt as if they were running on fumes — primarily of the inhaled variety.

Inasmuch as Lucas has often seemed humorless about “Star Wars'” creative shortcomings under his stewardship, it’s also nice to see the filmmaker/mogul join in the fun. Yet even in this lightweight diversion resides a lesson highlighted by Cartoon Network’s animated “Clone Wars” shorts — namely, that Lucas’ fantasy has frequently sailed the smoothest when he takes a back seat and leaves the starship piloting to someone else.

Popular on Variety

Robot Chicken: Star Wars

Cartoon Network, Sun. June 17, 10 p.m.

Production: Produced by Stoopid Monkey Prods., ShadowMachine Films and Sony Pictures Digital. Executive producers, Seth Green, Matthew Senreich; producers, Alex Bulkley, Corey Campodonico; director, Green; director of animation, Mark Caballero; head writers, Doug Goldstein, Tom Root.

Crew: Editor, Chris McKay. Running time: 30 MIN.

Cast: Voices: Seth Green, Candace Bailey, Abraham Benrubi, Bob Bergen, Ahmed Best, Donald Faison, Joey Fatone, Keith Ferguson, Mark Hamill, Hulk Hogan, Tom Kane, George Lucas, Seth MacFarlane, Malcolm McDowell, Breckin Meyer, Dan Milano, Chad Morgan, Conan O'Brien, Robert Smigel, Adam Talbott, James Van Der Beek.

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