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!).
Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side marks the first ever Blu-ray release of any Family Guy title. And the video presentation does not disappoint. Presented in a 1080p/AVC transfer with a standard 1.33:1 ratio (am I disappointed they didn’t shoot for a widescreen presentation? Only marginally, but I’m willing to overlook such a thing), the Dark Side has never looked brighter. And plain ol’ 2D animation has never looked better. The more Empire-like moments (wherein the iconic Imperial and Rebel ships are depicted in 3D animation) are simply breathtaking, and are frame-by-frame replications of the original film’s sequences (just like in Blue Harvest). Colors are vibrant (even the regular 2D moments), blacks are deep, and the contrast is most fitting to what you expect in a Blu-ray release (although seldom get).
On the audio end of the spectrum, Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side gives Star Wars worshippers a first: the ability to hear Ben Burtt’s memorable sound effects and John Williams’ immortal score via a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The soundtrack does not disappoint, either. MacFarlane and his crew have made sure to include just about every (if not every) tiny sound effect and music queue heard in the original film (which reminds me: get with the Original Original Trilogy on Blu-ray, George Lucas — and don’t you dare tweak ‘em this time!). The mix is a fine one, indeed: it provides enough material for the front and rear speakers (as well as subwoofer) to keep your audio setup in shape. Subtitles are available in about seventy kajillion languages, including English (SDH), Danish, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
Special features for Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side kick off with an audio commentary by with producers Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hentemann, & David Goodman, actor Seth Green, writer Kirker Butler, and director Dom Polcino. The commentary has a nasty habit of going off-detail about the film, but it becomes entertaining in itself as a bottle of Patron tequila goes back and forth between its participants (although it’s still not as good as the commentary on Cannibal: The Musical). A “Fact-Ups” trivia track can also be viewed with the main presentation.
A few featurettes are also included on this disc. “The Dark Side Of Poster Art” is a featurette in which we are shown how the cover art (inspired by the original Gone With The Wind-style artwork of Empire by Roger Kastel) came to be (Kastel even puts in his two-cents worth). An animatic scene-to-scene (with commentary by director Dom Polcino) gives us a look at a few pencil-sketched-to-final draft comparisons (recommended for those of you who actually truly really appreciate such material). The longest featurette here (nearly 50 minutes worth) has the entire cast and crew of the show are packed into a room for a table read of the first two acts of the show. Lastly, there’s a brief snippet from another table read, giving us a “Sneak Peak of Family Guy – Episode VI: We Have a Bad Feeling About This.” All featurettes are presented in 1080i High Definition.
Clocking in at just under 55 minutes, Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side comes highly recommended to both Family Guy fans and Star Wars geeks alike (most of which are one and the same, really). It’s a contagiously funny spoof that shows no mercy — while displaying its fondness for the original Star Wars film throughout. And just wait until you hear Han/Peter’s reply to Leia/Lois’ “I love you” line! Classic.