DVD Review: “Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side”

Written by DVD Reviews, Television

Spoiler Alert: Some key jokes of this release will be discussed. If you intend to view this DVD, you might want to consider avoiding the rest of this review.

A long time ago, blah, blah, blah. There are two franchises that owe an extreme debt of gratitude to the loyalty of their audience: the Star Wars empire (sorry) and the Family Guy television series. For the former, 30-plus years of marketability has made George Lucas a lot of money and given him plenty of prestige, but just as surely robbed him of a clear vision of his own creation. From the three awkward prequels that steadily winnowed down all but the most die-hard fans, to the current Cartoon Network animated series The Clone Wars, to novels including the recent horror entry, Death Troopers involving zombies (I kid you not), it seems safe to say that Lucas lost the thread a long, long time ago.

The same goes for Seth MacFarlane’s personal universe. After the show was canceled, fans protested, demanding Family Guy‘s return. Fox Network resisted and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim chose to rerun old episodes. Ratings soared and it wasn’t long before Fox changed their tune, not only bringing back Family Guy, but green-lighting another MacFarlane show American Dad, and spinning off Family Guy character Cleveland Brown into his own show. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool superfan, this expanded work, as well as the power MacFarlane and company now wield after virtually being begged back, is all for the good. I’ve been fairly vocal about how I feel the show’s made a turn for the worse, how it once was clever and crude, but is now only crude.

After the success of the series’ first stab at the Star Wars saga, Blue Harvest, it was only logical that the second and third entries wouldn’t be far behind. Something, Something, Something Dark Side‘s humor can be summed up in one scene in particular, toward the end of the Empire Strikes Back parody: Leia (Lois) stands helpless as Han Solo (Peter) is prepped to descend into the carbonite freezer. She calls to him, “I love you.” He responds, “Fuck off.”  It doesn’t really break too far out of that frame of mind.

It’s not a complete waste of time, at least from a technical standpoint. For the sake of parody, the visual approximation is really well executed. The production looks sharp, specifically whenever the hardware gets screen time. Games of tag with star destroyers, dodges around the asteroid belt and even the AT-AT attack sequence are handled with extreme care. Even some of the jokes work, including a series callback when an AT-AT collapses, then sits up, then grasps its skinned knee and grunts in pain. Another fun sequence is when Luke (Chris) beheads Vader (Stewie) to find Luke’s face inside. Luke picks up the head and proceeds to perform the “My Little Buttercup” scene from Three Amigos. These bits of humor are few and far between, though, as the characters are more inclined to call each other an array of rude things rather than, you know, be funny.

To be clear, this is not an anti-profanity editorial. I freely admit my love for some of the most foul-mouthed stand-up comedians working today, but the best of them know how to work a funny idea. It’s that kernel that provides the humor; the language just greases the delivery. But for this show, I often felt the swearing was the only thing really going on. If you wanted swearing during Star Wars, as well as creative new insults for disabled people, you should have been at one of the midnight showings for Attack of the Clones (still, I kid you not).

The standard disc looks great, and if the slight information to be gleaned from the commentary is to be taken as fact, the visual plus is due to the animation moving to digital 2-D (hand drawn, but direct to digital pad versus scanned paper art.) It’s a full-frame disc at the old TV screen ratio of 1.33:1 (square) because, eventually, a heavily bleeped network airing will take place. I would advise that’s the best way to go with this presentation. TiVO it when it airs, dump it down to disc or just watch it a couple times because, unless you’re a committed devotee, you just won’t revisit this DVD often.

Family Guy Presents: Something Something Something Dark Side is available from Amazon.com.