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Blu-ray Review: Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy

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As anyone knows who has ever watched the hit FOX show, Family Guy, the pacing thrives on, and to some extent depends on, these short, intermittent cut scenes of randomly related humor. Sometimes they feature the characters from the show, but just as often they are off-show or pop culture references meant to prop up the episode's premise with an extra sight gag. They are generally very clever and are a trademark of Family Guy.

For his Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, creator Seth MacFarlane, taking off from the idea of those short items, has created new ones and collected them together into a stand-alone piece. In another interesting twist, he put the collection online at the website Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Comedy for fans to watch for free. The site served MacFarlane-created advertisements before each sketch (the ads were sometimes as long or longer than the actual sketch), but it's still not a bad vehicle for the idea.

The new Blu-ray and DVD releases collect those shorts, commercial-free. Also, this "uncensored" version features some naughtier words and includes some extra content from the Internet versions. It's the complete collection, but is it any good?

The Movie

The biggest crime with MacFarlane's style of humor is to not generate a laugh. At its core, this collection focuses on just the puerile and mean-spirited humor from the show – which is okay if it's in service of something that can entertain. Generally it is, at least to some degree, but here we get those elements without the funny.

It's not that its completely devoid of humor – there are a handful of very clever and very funny sketches included – but the good is inordinately outweighed by the bad. Visual mismatch scenarios are set up, in hopes that an ironic dichotomy will do the work on its own, and then left to hang. And several of the bits will only be funny to 11-year-old boys who have no choice but to giggle in embarrassment when someone drops the f-bomb. In short, it's about ten percent genuine comedy, and ninety percent Seth MacFarlane at his laziest and most crude.

Video/Audio

The video presentation for this release is another disappointment. It is technically high-definition, but from a practical standpoint it falls completely flat. It's a 1080p encode, presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, but the quality of it is largely a mess. To be fair, the animation style of MacFarlane's shows is meant to be more utilitarian than anything, with stylistic roughness used to service the jokes. But presented in high-definition, the limitations of the source become apparent, to the point where you wonder why a Blu-ray was even made. The two-dimensional art is (obviously) flat, but also not crisply defined, with ragged edges for lines. Colors do not pop and tend to fluctuate with transition, there are banding issues, black levels are off and blocky… basically any way you slice it, this is a tragic Blu-ray transition.

The audio is fine for what it is, but what it is almost exclusively consists of stereo dialogue. Granted, it is a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but that's in name only. Witty back and forth between two parties only benefits so much from a high encode. But although it's not an impressive audio track, there's not nothing to complain about with it either. It's as clear as you please, but just doesn't see any appreciable upgrade with the format

Bonus Materials

Bonus content on this release is pitifully short, as well as disappointingly extraneous. The main item is the "Red Carpet Premiere" (SD, 4:21) which is a quick assembly of interviews of cast and crew at the premiere party – which apparently was held in the basement of a small nightclub. It has all the substance of an E! teaser spot, and annoys more than it enlightens. Other than that we are left with still image galleries of some of the characters in development (from concept to final versions), which is basically a non-feature. As a curious omission, it's a bit odd that the animated ads created for the website weren't included with this set. Since they're in the same visual style, and aspire to include a slight comedic edge, it seems like a missed opportunity to pad out the paltry selection of extra content.

Conclusion

Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy completely skips the most important word in that whole title: comedy. As an hour of your life, it is aggressively not funny for much of its fifty-four minutes, with only minor blips of humor to give you false hope. Which is a shame, because there is a lot to like with the irreverent and fast-paced style of MacFarlane's FOX shows, Family Guy and American Dad!. Unfortunately, this release takes the rejected dregs from those shows and tries to tie them together into an Internet/direct-to-disc product.

As a Blu-ray, it's a waste of the format. There is nothing high-definition – from a practical standpoint – to either the picture or audio, as well as no compelling bonus content. If you're a MacFarlane die-hard, you would be advised to leave this to a rental. Only the most devoted of completists should worry with a purchase, and even then you might as well save a few bucks and go for the DVD, as there is no discernible upgrade in quality with the Blu-ray.

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