I had the opportunity to see this short in a packed screening at the 2003 Mill Valley Film Festival. `SW 2.5: Pitch Wars' got some good laughs, but it suffered from being too smart for its audience. Though we were in Lucas country in Northern California and all the jokes directly about the local hero got a good response, many of the other famous directors parodied were not recognized by audience members. Thus some good lines and visual jokes fell flat in our crowd. For instance, despite an annual Academy Award audience of 1 billion people, few viewers were hip to Roberto Benigni or his gymnastic antics on George Lucas' office desk.
I was struck by the opening image of Lucas forlornly staring across his Ranch Empire waiting for inspiration. The mood of this opening shot evokes the careful balance the filmmakers maintain between gracious satire and pointed commentary about the failures of the Star Wars prequels. I also appreciated the inspired musical score by Zack Ryan, which effectively channels John Williams, yet exists successfully on its own merit. The quality of the animation is good for a no-budget short and has a consistent style that lends itself well to the material. The caricatures are certainly recognizable, and humorous in their own right. Most of the celebrity impersonations are done quite well, with director/producer Ariel Joseph Towne voicing the icons that most impinge.
Overall, my audience enjoyed `SW 2.5: Pitch Wars', but the warm fuzzies died out when the credits rolled too long and viewers didn't get the Pixar-style toon-outtakes. I hardly see how it's possible that a crowd of movie lovers would not appreciate the clever riffs on Randy Newman music and Toy Story/Ants blooper reels. However, the drag issue would be minimized in a hip crowd well versed in every Star Wars, Pixar and auteur film of the last decade. Is that too much to ask? Obviously, any IMDB user would find this little jewel delightful.
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