On October 31, 1998, Eric Bottler reunites with his old high school buddies Linus, Hutch, Windows, and Zoe at a Halloween party. There is tension between Bottler and his old friends, due to Bottler being the only one that matured since high school. Bottler, now a car salesman at his father's dealership, finds that his friends have not changed a bit since high school: the number one thing they still have in common is their love of Star Wars. The gang expresses their anticipation for the latest installment to the franchise, The Phantom Menace. Linus proposes an idea that Bottler and he had been plotting since they were children, to infiltrate Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut of the film, but Bottler dismisses it.
The next day, Hutch and Windows meet Bottler at work and inform him that Linus is dying from cancer. The doctors estimate that he only has roughly four months to live; Episode I comes out in six. To make peace with his former best friend, Bottler decides to go through with their plan and infiltrate Skywalker Ranch. The four begin their trip to Texas, where they have to meet Rogue Leader, a girl Windows is having an online relationship with, for information on getting into the Ranch. While on the road, Hutch decides to take a detour to Riverside, Iowa (the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk) in an attempt to start a fight with some Trekkies. Hutch gets his wish after attacking a Trekkie by the name of Admiral Seasholtz in retaliation to Seasholtz insulting Han Solo, to which Hutch responds by running down their statue of Captain Kirk and Khan.
The boys' van breaks down and they stumble upon a biker bar. Once inside they ask for help and a glass of water that costs $100. Hutch, refusing to pay, tries to pass himself off as a tough guy who just got out of prison, only to discover that they are in a gay bar. In order to pay for the drink they are forced to become the "midnight entertainment" and strip to the music of Menudo, which goes terribly wrong when Hutch displays his one testicle. They are saved by a man named "The Chief," who fixes their van after they pass out from eating guacamole laced with peyote. He gives a bag of it to Linus as a parting gift.
After arriving in Texas, Windows meets Rogue Leader, who to his horror is a 10-year-old girl. The group is then assaulted by her uncle, Harry Knowles, who beats up Windows and tells him to never talk to his niece again. After explaining their situation, Harry quizzes them to prove they are true fanboys, then gives them information on one of his contacts that knows how to successfully enter Skywalker Ranch. They are told to meet Harry's contact in Las Vegas, but on their way there they are arrested for fleeing a police vehicle and possession of peyote. Zoe arrives to bail them out of jail, and - having traveled halfway across the country to get them - insists on accompanying them on their journey. Eric is reluctant to continue when the judge (Billy Dee Williams) gives him a message from his father to come home or lose his job, but the others convince him to carry on by calling the journey their "Death Star", the one great thing that will live with them forever. Once in Vegas, Hutch and Windows attempt to have sex with some girls while Bottler and Linus go to meet Harry's contact. They are shocked to find that his contact is none other than William Shatner, who gives them the information they need and leaves. As they leave they are attacked by Seasholtz and his Trekkie friends, who were attending a Star Trek convention in the same hotel. Meanwhile, Hutch and Windows discover that the girls they were with are escort girls and flee when their angry pimp wants them to pay up.
The group escapes their adversaries but Linus is injured in the process. When taken to the hospital, Linus is informed by a doctor (Carrie Fisher) that he must return home for the sake of his health. When the group feels the situation has become hopeless, Eric refuses to give up on their plan and manages to inspire the gang to continue, reminding them that Star Wars means very much not just to Linus, but to all of them. The group leaves the hospital and eventually makes it to Skywalker Ranch. Shortly after breaking into the ranch and marveling at the collection of original props and costumes used in the films, they are discovered by security guards and are caught after a brief chase. The Head of Security tells them of their impending doom when he receives a phone call from George Lucas himself. Lucas tells him that he will drop all charges if they can prove to him that they are "fanboys". The five are individually quizzed, including questions designed to show that they do not know much about the opposite sex (of which only Zoe is able to answer), after which the Head of Security confirms that they are fanboys and Lucas drops all charges. Being aware of Linus's illness, Lucas allows him to watch the film alone while his friends wait outside. After the film ends, Bottler joins his friends around a campfire and mends his friendship with Linus. Weeks later, Linus dies of his illness.
On May 19, 1999, Bottler, Windows and Zoe emerge from their tent they used to camp out in while waiting in line for the first showing of Episode I. Bottler has followed his and Linus's dream by becoming a comic book artist, Hutch has finally started his own detailing business, and Windows and Zoe are now in a relationship. Hutch arrives at the theater with beers he smuggled in, which they use to toast Linus's memory. Just before the film starts, Bottler comments, "What if the movie sucks?"Jay Baruchel as Windows
Dan Fogler as Harold "Hutch" Hutchinson
Sam Huntington as Eric Bottler
Chris Marquette as Linus
Kristen Bell as Zoe
David Denman as Chaz
Christopher McDonald as Big Chuck
Billy Dee Williams as Judge Reinhold
Danny Trejo as The Chief
Ethan Suplee as Harry Knowles
Seth Rogen as Admiral Seasholtz / Alien / Roach
William Shatner as himself
Ray Park as THX Security Guard #2
There are numerous cameos related to Star Wars and other science-fiction/cult-hit films including Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Seth Rogen (playing three different roles), Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Jaime King, Danny McBride, Ray Park, Craig Robinson, Ethan Suplee, Joe Lo Truglio, Lou Taylor Pucci, Will Forte, Danny Trejo and William Shatner. In Park's role, he acts as a Skywalker Ranch security guard who says, "Time for you to get mauled, boy," as he pulls out two nightsticks (in response to Windows threatening him with a toy lightsaber).
After George Lucas was given an advance screening of the rough cut of the film, he enjoyed it and gave it his "stamp of approval", and even offered the original Star Wars sound effects for use in the film. Filmmaker and Star Wars fan Kevin Smith also viewed an early version of the film and asked for (and was given) a cameo in the film.
The film was originally to be released on August 17, 2007. The film was pushed back once more to January 2008 because director Kyle Newman was given more funding to shoot additional scenes that the original budget did not include. Getting the cast back together would only be possible in September 2007, thus the film's release date had to be moved to 2008.
The film was again pushed back because the reshoots could not take place before November/December 2007. These reshoots were directed by Steven Brill and not by Newman. On January 14, The CineManiac reported that the film was being re-edited to remove the cancer plot from the film and replace much of it with raunchy, vulgar humor. Ain't It Cool News picked up the story and confirmed that the two different versions of the film (with and without the cancer subplot) were screened to different test audiences in Burbank, California, in January 2008 to see which one would rate higher. As for a new release date, Newman stated in a Movie Geeks United! interview that the film would hopefully come out in April 2008. Upon hearing about the changes being made to the film, an internet campaign was begun to protest the plot changes and demand that the original version with the cancer storyline be released in theaters.
Brill retaliated in a derogatory manner, calling fans "losers" in online correspondence which ended up released to the public. In one exchange, Brill called a fan "dumb" and threatened to "hunt him down" in a profanity-laden emailed response to a letter of complaint. In an interview Newman chastised Brill's behavior, saying:
A rough cut of the full film (that included the cancer storyline) was shown in public for the first time at Star Wars Celebration Europe on July 14, 2007.
On July 9, 2008, Newman confirmed in a TheForce.net interview that the cancer plot would be included in the final cut of the film.
Newman was given just 36 hours to reassemble his film, and edit back in the key motivational cancer plot line.
The final cut of the film was screened on July 24, 2008, in San Diego at Comic-Con. It was announced there that Fanboys would be released to theaters on September 19, 2008, but soon after, the official Weinstein Company website announced that this had changed to November 26, 2008. The final release date was finally pushed to February 6, 2009.
Fanboys was released on February 6, 2009 in eight US markets. The film expanded into 10 more cities on February 20, 2009, including a special screening in Columbus, Ohio that day, followed by a Q&A session after the film with Kyle Newman, Ernie Cline, Matt Perniciaro and Kevin Mann. According to Cline's pre-show speech, he wanted to hold a special screening with fans in his home state, since he grew up in nearby Ashland, Ohio, and the story was set in a fictional town similar to Ashland. The film expanded its release to seven more markets on February 27, 2009, to 13 more on March 13, 2009, and an additional 9 on March 20, 2009. On April 3, 2009, it was released in Canadian theaters. The film was also released on May 7, 2009 in Denmark and showed for approximately three weeks, it was released in Germany on July 30, 2009.
The DVD version was released on May 19, 2009, the day of the 10th anniversary of The Phantom Menace. The DVD and Blu-ray were also released in Canada on June 2, 2009.
The region 2 DVD was released on October 4, 2010.
Fanboys was not profitable. The film's budget was approximately $3.9 million, but the film only made $960,828.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 32% based on 95 reviews and an average rating of 4.8/10. The site's consensus reads, "This undercooked, sporadically funny road movie is a sop to Star Wars fanatics, but the uninitiated will find little to enjoy." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 45 out of 100 based on 24 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film 1½ out of 4 stars, calling it "an amiable but disjointed film that identifies too closely with its heroes. Poking a little more fun at them would have been a great idea." James Berardinelli gave it 2½ out of 4 stars, saying it was "mostly a middling road picture that doesn't do a lot more than any average, forgettable entry into the tired genre." Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz of At the Movies recommended to "Skip It". Lyons said, "It was a great premise; it just unfortunately did not come together", and Mankiewicz commented that "it devolves into nothing more than a silly road trip movie."