Dark Side of the ’toon

Star Wars saga goes animated … and it could be worse

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Voices of Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein and James Arnold Taylor. Directed by Dave Filoni. Rated PG.
Rated 3.0

Endless as they may seem, sometimes the coming attractions double as a preview for the movie you’re about to see. Ahead of Star Wars: The Clone Wars came trailers for the now-delayed Harry Potter sequel, a Jim Carrey comedy and a handful of animated films aimed squarely at matinee families. So by the time the screen carried the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …” it was clear this feature was aimed more at boys and girls than fanboys and fangirls.

Uh-oh, not another Phantom Menace … (please no Jar Jar, please no Jar Jar!)

Nope. Clone Wars wound up delivering 98 minutes of pleasant entertainment. No moment was particularly breathtaking, but none was particularly grating, either. George Lucas and friends put out a quaint cartoon, blending CGI and videogame aesthetics, with a patented plot minus the other prequels’ stilted dialogue.

This film slips between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi have the Force and Anakin is still a good Skywalker, but war with the Separatists is not going well for the Republic. A treaty with Jabba the Hutt could turn things around; however, the Outer Rim gangster cares less about politics than the fate of his kidnapped son, and whoever returns the huttlet gets to make an offer he can’t refuse.

Of course, Obi-Wan and Anakin get the mission … but they’re not alone. Yoda has assigned Skywalker a padawan learner, Ahsoko Tano, who’s almost as troublesome an apprentice as he was. (Apparently karmic payback isn’t from the Dark Side.)

We meet a few new characters: goth-chick villainess Asajj Ventress (cool) and flamboyant nightclub owner Ziro the Hutt (Truman Capote reimagined as a worm—offensive). We reconnect with favorites making cameos, though only three of the original actors voice their characters; the stars are all impersonated, some more successfully than others.

If you’re a Star Wars fan or a parent, you could do worse than Clone Wars. If not, you could do a lot better.