Thumb Wars

Thumb Wars (1999)
Image Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Track, Video Interview, Storyboards, Trailers

Spoofs on the "Star Wars" saga are plentiful and come from all media. Film versions are obviously the most popular, due to their ability to nicely reflect the look of the original films. Whether it’s "Troops," some home-made web movies or in this case "Thumb Wars," most of these films manage to wrangle the subject matter and turn it into hilarious spoofs that are nonetheless heartfelt tributes to George Lucas’ cult phenomenon.

"Thumb Wars" loosely tells the story of "Star Wars: A New Hope" – with some brief nods to the latter episodes of the series. Using human thumbs as actors is one idea. Superimposing them with real human eyes and mouths, and attaching hair and costumes to them is quite another. The result is a menagerie of goofy looking characters that perfectly blend in with the silly dialogues and the hair-raising logic applied to the storyline. All in all, "Thumb Wars" is 30-minutes of sheer fun, racing from one laugh to another. Sometimes a parody, sometimes a satire and at others, plain old slapstick, the film safely treads the thin line of hilarity and every joke, no matter how subtle, is coming across very poignantly.

Apart from the "eccentric" actors, the models used throughout the set are remarkable. Creating an entire thumb-universe, the filmmakers have created variations of spaceships, robots, death stars and all other paraphernalia from the Star Wars movie, down to their own variation of the laser sabers. Upon watching it, it immediately becomes evident that this film is a true labor of love and that quite some effort was put into making it a professionally looking film – successfully so.

"Thumb Wars" is presented in a beautiful <$PS,fullscreen> transfer on this DVD, and I have to admit I was surprised to see just how incredibly sharp and well-defined the film looks here. Despite the fact that basically all of the film is shot with really small miniatures where optical focus can very quickly become an issue, the film has a sharp look throughout and the definition of the presentation is simply astounding. Colors are rich and faithfully rendered, even minute details are well maintained, and the blacks are truly deep and solid.

Spoofing not only the visuals, the movie also comes with a great audio track, complete with a "Thumb Wars" theme. Although not quite as rich and pompous as John Williams’ original score, the music greatly enhances the flair of the film and adds to some of the humor. The disc contains a full-blown <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track as well as a <$DS,Dolby Surround> mix of the film. Both are very well produced, although the Dolby Surround track is much more front-loaded and dynamically compressed. The <$5.1,5.1 mix> on the other hands is spatial and dimensional with very good surround usage, which makes the presentation all the more enjoyable.

As a bonus, the DVD also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director Steve Oedekerk and producer Paul Marshal. It is a track I like to endear to viewers, as it is as informative as it is entertaining and funny. Staying true to his humorous reputation Oedekerk makes a great many comments that will just crack you up, while at the same time delivering details about the production that immensely help understand and appreciate the effort that went into this 30-minute short film.

Another great extra on the disc is a video interview with "Gabba the Butt." Running about 3-minutes, this interview is just laugh-out-loud funny and perfectly spoofs the self-congratulatory interviews that are too often found on promotional featurettes these days. There could be no better character than "Gabba" to mock the attitude and I am sure you will agree with me, that this short bonus feature as a great addition to this DVD.
The release is rounded out by a storyboard gallery and extensive "Thumbographies."

I had a blast with "Thumb Wars" and I was excited to hear that creator Steve Oedekerk is working on a series of other film in the same vein, which will soon be released on DVD as well. Trailers for two of them, "Thumtanic" – whci hactually was the first of the "thumb" films in 1998 – and "The Blair Thumb" can be found on this DVD already, and they look just as hilarious. But with short films like "Frankenthumb," "Bat Thumb" and "The Godthumb" already in the pipe, I can’t wait to see and collect them all. One thing is clear, Oedekerk does not only have a talent for writing full blown comedies, such as "Patch Adams," "The Nutty Professor" and "Ace Ventura," but he also has a talent to excel on much more challenging projects, such as this one. The dialogues, the visuals, the models, everything in this production is absolutely marvelous and on this DVD, we get a glimpse at the magic of Oedekerk and his very talented thumbs.