Could you imagine a Jar Jar Binks movie where he has a side adventure to babysit a precious child, or even a Tarzan style movie where an orphan is raised by the lemmings of the Star Wars universe: the Porgs? No, of course you couldn’t, such things these days would be written off as hideously ridiculous, especially considering how vocal a certain type of Star Wars fan can be these days; but back in 1984, before the insanely fertile spin-off landscape that came in the wake of the prequels, the options to carry on any adventures set in a Galaxy far, far away were notoriously limited.
And lo, George Lucas shrugged his plaid clad shoulders and forced upon us the Caravan Of Courage, a full length TV movie written by the nanny of his children (!), that actually got a cinematic release overseas thus proving that they’ll try to make money off any old shit as long as it tenuously has links to the Force.
On one of Endor’s moons, we find grumpy Ewok papa Deej take to the skies in a rickety hand glider to find his two missing idiot sons, Widdle and Weechee, while his youngest, Wicket, looks on. Upon locating and rescuing the two furry fuckwits after finding them squabbling on the side of a cliff, they double back to find something Deej spotted from the air and it turns out to be a crashed space cruiser owned by the Towani family who have become marooned here and separated because they’re a fairly annoying group of people. Finding the impossibly angelic, blonde moppet, Cindel (not the one from Mortal Kombat, unfortunately) and her overwhelmingly punchable older brother, Mace, they give them shelter despite them both enthusiastically being a very viable source of meat and after Wicket befriends the little girl (always has an eye on the ladies, that one), the clan agree to help them find their missing parents.
That’s going to be tougher than originally expected, however, as they’ve been taken by a hairy, giant trog-like thing that’s known as Gorax that’s keeping in a suspended cage in his lair because either they look delicious or they just really tie the room together…
Hooking up with a cameoing Logray, the local Ewok shaman, they head out on a very Tolken-esque adventure that throws all matter of episodic trials at them like killer spiders, enchanted lakes and resisting the urge to leave the constantly complaining Mace’s body in a shallow grave; but they soldier on and even recruit help in the form of ballsy Ewok lumberjack Chukha-Trok, ineffective priestess Kaink and a dancing ball of light called Izrina.
Can this ramshackle fellowship – er, I mean caravan – rescue the parents before Gorax besides to have a well-earned cheat day and gobble them down like pop-tarts?
If I’m being honest, there have been worse things unleashed on a Star Wars hungry public over the years (the legendary Star Wars Holiday Special and that Jar Jar lollipop where you had to suck his tongue being just two), but if I’m being even more honest, there hasn’t been much worse either. In a time before Dave Filoni revolutionized the beloved franchise’s prospects for the small screen with The Clone Wars, Rebels and the relentless Grogu meme factory that is The Mandalorian (along with Jon Favereau), making a feature length TV movie about the teddy bears that brought down an Empire sort of makes perverse sense; after all, what else could they have done on a 1980’s TV budget that required none of the franchise regulars to show up?
But instead of utilizing it’s human characters to slowly ease us into the everyday life of diminutive, fuzzy, bears that constantly look like they’re all one step away from utter heat exhaustion, the film drops us right into their way of life without anything but a Mark Twain-style narration from Burl Ives to clue us in as to what the hell is going on – which by the looks of it is nothing much at all as they carry on about their day with all the dignity of a drunk panda. Obviously no one’s learned any lessons from the Wookee Life Day plot from the Holiday Special which expected us to piece together a story from endless scenes of shaggy ape/dog creatures growling at each other with no subtitles and we have to sit patiently as the guy who played Big Daddy from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof walks us through what all the gurgling and purring means.
Finally, the humans enter the film and initially you breath a sigh of relief as actual dialogue is belatedly utilized, but it’s short lived once you realise that the kids are actually quite awful with Mace being easily five times the whining prick Luke Skywalker ever was. Constantly testing the patience of the audience and the Ewoks alike he struts around thinking he’s hot stuff, picking fights with teddy bears who could obviously hand him his ass in two seconds flat (you don’t want these paws, bro) and sticking his hands into dangerous looking crevases and then immediately looking surprised when he’s attacked by predators. Frankly, he’s awful and despite being arrogant, he’s pretty dumb too; “It looks like a monster, or something real big!”
he yells upon first seeing Gorax, that makes us assume that he somehow has no idea there’s such a thing as a big monster in a universe that blatantly contains Rancors and Space Slugs.
Cindel is nowhere near as bad but her endless staring up at people from under a headband that looks made from a scrunchie starts to annoy fairly quickly.
However, the Ewoks themselves prove to be surprisingly watchable with veteran Star Wars actor Warwick Davis managing to continue to bring life to a costume that’s essentially a caveman version of Paddington Bear. However, the movie doesn’t make it easy for him as the budget is obviously not what it once was and it shows; the Ewok’s mouths barely even moved in Return Of The Jedi, so now their faces are almost utterly static which unfortunately highlight those creepy fucking eyes that they have. Costume seems are painfully visible and some of the stop motion work is so jerky you might initially worry that you’re having a stroke, but every now and then the film manages to knock out the odd fun call back. I say call back, because I’ve no idea when this is supposed to be set, so for all I know it could be a call forward, but a bit where the Ewoks try to use that old tripwire gag on Gorax that failed so spectacularly on a Scout Walker during the battle of Endor actually works here and is a sweet little Easter egg in a film that feels divorced from the established universe as a whole (Ewoks can use magic? Since when?).
One final and amusing point; when Mace is demanding aid for a sick Cindel, they worryingly offer him “Kush” – now, I’m assuming they don’t mean that particular strain of Cannabis indica that it shares the same name with, but it might explain what the writer was on when he penned this Lord Of The Rings rip off.
Anyway, does this relic of the Star Wars universe – now officially dubbed Star Wars Vintage by Disney+ (Christ, I feel old!) – ultimately fail to live up to the quality of the saga at that point? Well, does an Ewok shit in the woods?