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LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures—Complete Season One

(2016) ** 1/2 Unrated
286 min. Disney XD. Directors: Michael Hegner, Martin Skov, Per Düring Risager, Jens Møller, Frederik Budolph. Cast: Vanessa Lengies, Grey DeLisle, Nicolas Cantu, Grey Griffin, Matthew Wood, Matt Sloan, Billy Dee Williams.


So what is with this whole LEGO animation thing, anyway? Seldom since Transformers have we seen such a naked integration of pop culture and product advertisement as we see in LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Batman, et al. It is what it is, but the widespread affection for LEGO toys and—at least in their most basic incarnations—the free-form mix-and-match creativity they inspire in children have garned goodwill for shows like LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. That word "Freemaker" serves both the name of the central family on the show and an unmistakeable reference to the ideal of LEGO play. The thirteen-episode Season One (or, perhaps, complete series?) also retains the playful, irreverent sense of humor that has come to be associated with LEGO animation, especially since the big-screen hit The LEGO Movie.

12-year-old Rowan Freemaker (Nicolas Cantu) is strong in the Force. He doesn't know that at first, as he blithely does his part for the family business of Freemaker Salvage and Repair. Working out of the space station "The Wheel," Rowan, his older sister Kordi (Vanessa Lengies) and older brother Zander (Eugene Byrd)—along with reprogrammed battle droid R0-GR (Matthew Wood)—pick up the pieces (ah, I see what you did there LEGO) of blown-apart Rebel and Imperial vessels. The Freemakers attempt to maintain a neutrality as they devote themselves to paying their rent, but once Rowan discovers the mystical relic called the Kyber Saber, he and his family find themselves targeted by other small-time entrepeneurs and, worse, the Empire. Rowan gains a mentor, or perhaps a rival in Jedi (or is she a Sith?) Naare (Grey Griffin), and Jabba's comical cousin Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder, doing his best Dom DeLuise).

Certainly, kids with an affinity for Star Wars (or the potential for one) will love LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. And even adult Star Wars fans with enough of a sense of perspective to laugh at this not-overly-serious non-canonical storyline will have a good time. The formula here isn't vastly different from other Star Wars animated shows, like Rebels: a hook-y, reasonably self-contained story with at least one big action sequence involved, while serving a larger story arc that's heading somewhere by season's end. And like Rebels, The Freemaker Adventures invites back into play familiar characters, vehicles, and settings from the entirety of the Star Wars Saga (Freemaker even brings in elements of the recent The Force Awakens).

The show's biggest risk is in making not only the Emperor (Trevor Devall) but also Darth Vader (Matt Sloan) into a figure of fun, bumbling bad guys at the top of the dark-side food chain. It's a hoot, although some fans will bristle. A similar dunderheaded duo comes with two Iktotchi (Danny Jacobs and John DiMaggio, the latter being Bender from Futurama). We also get guest shots from Luke Skywalker (Eric Bauza), Princess Leia (Julie Dolan), and Boba Fett (Dee Bradley Baker), among many others, but the most important news for Star Wars nuts is that Billy Dee Williams himself returns to voice his iconic role of Lando Calrissian, the only original cast member to do so. Canon or no, that brings an extra-specialness to The Freemaker Adventures for old-school Star Wars fans.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 12/6/2016

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney offers up a serviceable Blu-ray edition of LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures: Complete Season One. The picture quality is excellent, with bold colors and no trouble handling the kinetic action with crisp detail, as much as there is to be had from this animation style. Sound leaves something to be desired, in that we get only lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. They get the job done, but it's easy to imagine a more powerful presentation of the effects and Williams-esue music here (even dialogue could use a bit more punch).

Arguably the best bonus feature of the set are the six coin-sized "bubble magnets" included in the package, but Disc Two does include a couple of video-based bonuses amounting to less than 3 ½ minutes in run time. These are "The Freemaker Adventures: Meet the Freemaker Family" (2:21, HD)—with the voice actors introducing their characters—and "Freemaker Salvage and Repair" (1:02, HD), a mock commercial for the titular business.


Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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