Without its penchant for creating beloved characters, Star Wars is nothing but a basic tale of good versus evil. And as a family-friendly franchise, it’s less than nothing if some of those characters aren’t destined to become appealing toys and widely shareable memes.
Such characters are often droids or aliens used for comic relief, adding levity to what can be a tense action-adventure story. Unlike other mass-appeal mascots, from Scooby-Doo’s Scrappy-Doo to Frozen’s Olaf to Despicable Me’s Minions to even past Star Wars creations like the Ewoks or Jar-Jar Binks, Star Wars’ most recent marketable and meme-able characters have been universally likable, tailor-made to appeal to obsessive kids without also exhausting the adults in the room. Instead, these little show-stealers deserved the fawning attention they attracted by providing sincere humor and heart in small doses.
In The Force Awakens, there was the absurdly cute BB-8. Then, there were The Last Jedi’s penguin-like porgs. After that came Baby Yoda from the TV show The Mandalorian. Now, there is Babu Frik — hilarious, adorable, instantly quotable, and, to some, the single best part of The Rise of Skywalker.
Babu Frik was first revealed in an October 2019 promotional photo, two months before The Rise of Skywalker’s release in late December. Standing less than a foot tall, with a whiskered, feline muzzle, welding goggles, and giant hands, the alien creature looked like a kitten engineer. We all know how much the internet loves cats; of course he was endearing.
But little else was known about Babu Frik until The Rise of Skywalker’s December 19 release. There’s not much to his role, turns out. He specializes in droid repair, and is called in to help Poe Dameron, Finn, and Rey break through a prohibitive code inside of C-3PO’s head. The code is preventing the chatty golden droid from translating a secret Sith message for them; Babu Frik has the tools to circumvent that.
Though he only appears in a couple scenes, they’re memorable because of his contagious enthusiasm. He smiles; he yelps; he pumps his fists in excitement. He’s even a technical feat, a work of puppetry and not CGI like many of the other aliens in the Star Wars universe. (Baby Yoda is another great example of how wonderful puppetry and practical effects can be.) But most of all, Babu Frik is funny. Plain and simple.
Much like the esteemed and adorable Baby Yoda, Babu Frik has been adopted by the internet as its latest son. We want nothing more than to laugh with him and befriend him as our Star Wars crew does in the film.
Whenever babu friks not on screen, all the other characters should be asking, "where's babu frik?"— 9 V O L T (@9_volt_) December 24, 2019
Babu Frik’s voice, provided by Shirley Henderson of Harry Potter fame (Moaning Myrtle!), seems to be the catchiest part of all. He is mostly impossible to understand, speaking in alien gibberish. But he does have one quotable catchphrase: a celebratory “Hey-hey!” delivered in a sort of nasally, high-pitched bleat.
Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father— Jim does a variety of interests, maybe a Star War (@ObsKenobs) December 26, 2019
Luke: He told me enough. He told me you killed him
Vader: No.I am your—
Babu Frik: heyyYYYHEYYYYYYYYY
Favorite Star Wars Line_________— Matt Will Post (@MattPostSaysHi) December 26, 2019
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” -Obi Wan Kenobi
“heLLO. i. BaBu. fRiK.” - Babu Frik
hey heeeeeeeeeey to babu frik and no one else pic.twitter.com/RHAebisR2m— Gene Park (@GenePark) December 21, 2019
Babu Frik’s triumphant exclamation, and his voice, are even the focus of a pretty great TikTok:
Perhaps because they were introduced to the Star Wars universe in such close proximity, Babu Frik has been pitted against the similarly memeable Baby Yoda, as is the internet’s way. It’s as if the world can only have one perfect Star Wars creature at a time. But that’s far from the truth. It seems we can, in fact, have it all.
Babu Frik. My best friend he is. pic.twitter.com/RSfiEYajML— Baby Yoda (@BabyYodaBaby) December 25, 2019
this is baby yoda’s and babu frik’s world and we’re just living in it bye pic.twitter.com/qMyYcEwFQC— K V (@karenvh13) December 20, 2019
Star Wars ended the 2010s on a rough note. But Babu Frik helped ease the pain.
Babu Frik’s fervent fandom comes in stark contrast to The Rise of Skywalker’s negative critical and fan reception, which has put a damper on a decade of evolution for the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars made its grand return to the big screen in the second half of the 2010s, courtesy of Disney’s pricy purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012. The result was a steady stream of five Star Wars films over as many years, beginning with 2015’s The Force Awakens as the start of a third trilogy known as the Skywalker saga.
The new trilogy — which has since been completed with 2017’s The Last Jedi and 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker — was buttressed by two side stories, Rogue One and Solo. While some of the movies were well-received, Solo, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker were particularly divisive. The Rise of Skywalker received Star Wars’ most negative reception of the lot, a disappointing ending to what started out as an exciting return.
Questions of whether fans were experiencing Star Wars fatigue arose after Solo ended up losing money for Disney, an unexpected box office misfire. Had the company released too much Star Wars too quickly? Even Mark Hamill (a.k.a. Luke Skywalker) and CEO Bob Iger mulled over the possibility of series burnout, in relation to Solo’s poor performance.
The Rise of Skywalker has been successful at the box office, to be sure — it’s nearing $1 billion worldwide— but the film hasn’t exactly inspired anticipation for future Star Wars films. (That is, should any future Star Wars films come to exist; the franchise’s big-screen future remains in limbo for now.)
What makes Babu Frik most special is that he is a bright spot in a film many people found weak. The common sentiment is that Babu Frik’s upbeat, goofy demeanor brings joy to The Rise of Skywalker, a conversation point that even fans who disliked the movie seem to agree on. While those same fans tear apart the plot holes in The Rise of Skywalker, catalog its deviations from The Last Jedi, and question its biggest reveals about its lead’s backstory, they can at least look back fondly on this charming little guy. And anything, or anyone, that can cut through fandom rage must be praised.