I’m not the biggest fan of animation in the world. There are a few exceptions, though. One of them is Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy. Granted, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of it, either — I won’t go out of my way to view it, but I’ll stand at attention if it’s on nonetheless. At its worst, Family Guy is crude and infantile. But, seeing as how the entire comedy genre seems to be perpetually trapped in an ice age of sophomoric humor, the crudeness and infantiletiness (I just made that word up) of Family Guy takes “lowbrow” humor to a new level — outshining that of South Park or The Simpsons — and it’s definitely one of the best shows out there. The writers of the series are “hip” enough to throw in some of the most obscure (yet witty) film and television references they can muster — which keeps most pop-culture junkies happy.
In 2007, a Family Guy special aired entitled Blue Harvest, which was later released by itself on DVD. The episode, an unquestionably thorough riffing on 1977’s epic Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope bordered on sheer genius (no matter how crude and infantile it may have been at times — again, in an entirely inventive and outshining sort of way). When word reached me that Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side — MacFarlane’s spoof of the classic Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back — was coming to Blu-ray, I was anything but upset at the prospect.
So, how does Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side fare with even a devout fan of the original George Lucas film (which, and let’s be honest here, is the best film of the entire Star Wars franchise)? Quite well, actually.
Once again, the Griffin family is faced with another power outage (which was the setup for Blue Harvest. And so, Family Guy Peter recounts the next chapter in the iconic Star Wars legacy. Immediately, the jokes begin to spew forth. The opening narrative crawl unabashedly rips on 20th Century Fox for not realizing they had a moneymaker on their hands with the original science fiction award-winner (they allotted George Lucas with all merchandising rights — a mistake they’ve surely regretted since). It also reminds Fox investors that the same company has canceled their show on more than one occasion. We are then treated to the sight of an animated dancing elephant, and the crawl informs us that they deliberately wasted fifty-eight thousand dollars of Fox’s money to produce it.
From there on in, Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side gives us a side-splittingly funny (I hate that expression, but I’m going to use it anyway) and abbreviated version of Lucas’ film. Every slightly odd or queer moment of the original motion picture is brought forth and exploited appropriately, from the fact that the Rebels decide to make their escape from Hoth by heading directly toward the oncoming Imperial fleet (as opposed to just sneaking out the back), to that rather awkward moment at the end where Lando Calrissian is wearing Han’s clothes aboard the Millennium Falcon. And speaking of Lando, Seth MacFarlane and crew have fashioned their animated likeness of the original Star Wars universe’s sole black man in the true Family Guy tradition: he’s played by Mort Goldman, a Jewish character.
Many of the original characters from the original Blue Harvest return here: Peter as Han, Lois as Leia, Chris as Luke, etc. Stewie once again portrays Darth Vader, and comes complete with his fair share of gay jokes. Guest voices include James Caan, Phil LaMarr, James Woods, and SCTV’s inimitable Joe Flaherty, who shows up to spoof his own role from Back To The Future Part II (go, Joe!).