Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest (US - DVD R1)
Gabe Powers expected the force to be strong with this one, but it wasn't...
I’m not much of a sports fan, but I do love sports metaphors. For this metaphor the Family Guy writers will be played by a single basketball player. The game is tied as our player approaches the basket with rugged determination. As he makes his move the entire opposing team suddenly suffer acute appendicitis and fall moaning to the hard wood. Without warning the player experiences a sudden growth spurt, and now stands mere inches below the rim. With five seconds left on the clock and no opposition to stop him, he gently tosses the ball towards the net, underhanded. The ball spins beautifully, with a perfect arch…
…and misses the basket.
Family Guy has been on a sliding scale since its re-introduction to the airwaves. The series problems were perfectly and obviously lampooned on another prime time, adult animated series— South Park. For my personal perspective on this particular argument, I’ll state for the record that I watch Family Guy on a regular basis (it’s on two channels every night, for Christ’s sake), and I don’t catch South Park more then twice a month. The main point that Eric Cartman, of all people, makes is that without emotional or at least narrative content, random pop-culture references stop being funny. Family Guy works best when it blends its wacky characters with pop-culture references, but lately, as the characters have become part of pop-culture, I’ve noticed the characters disappearing into the references.
But if a show’s penchant is pop-culture references, what could possibly fit it better then that pantheon of modern pop-culture called Star Wars? Factually, many of Family Guy’s best one-off jokes were already Star Wars related. The Sand People Choir is a great joke. So one would assume that this marriage was made in heaven, and for a while it works, but after about twenty minutes the joke begins to wear as thin as Peter Griffin’s tighty-whities.
This all comes down to particular and personal senses of humour, of course, and I don’t really like direct spoof. The old Star Wars references made me laugh because the pop-culture icons were taken out of their element and re-contextualized . In the case of this Blue Harvest episode the jokes are stuck in the context of A New Hope’s plot. Instead of bringing bits of Star Wars into a totally unrelated universe, this long episode spends too much time emulating the original.
I did laugh, I really did, several times even, but overall this was a disappointing and dishevelling experience. The often clever compilation of influences are compacted, and it looks like too much time was spent on fun character designs and impressive animation, rather then a full hour of great jokes. I’m a Star Wars fan for Christ’s sake—I like Attack of the Clones! I’ve probably seen it a dozen times; I’ve got to be easy to please, right?
Once again my screener copy is a single layered, burned disc, and once again the compression is obvious. Edges are all lumpy with noise, solid colours are blocky, colours in general are dimmer then they were on television, and interlacing effects are everywhere. I only have to assume that everything looks bright and crisp on the official release disc.
Wow that’s loud. I’m pretty sure the actual disc won’t be this loud. The Family Guy people put a lot of effort into emulating the sounds of Star Wars so it’s nice to hear the effort in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. The bass is room rumbling, but it warbles quite a bit and distorts the rest of the audio. The surround effects bleed a bit, but still have an appropriate amount of zip. Did I mention it was freakin’ loud? I don’t think it’s supposed to be this loud. Stupid single-layered burned disc.
We start with a very cramped commentary track featuring Seth MacFarlane and just about everyone that had something to do with the episode. The track is shockingly dry. For a bunch of guys that create relatively anarchic television comedy they don’t have a lot of funny stuff to say. It mostly comes down to technical bits, people laugh at their own jokes, and MacFarlane saying “I love that bit”. Some of the behind the scenes stuff is pretty informative, but it’s almost all covered more entertainingly on the featurettes. I also notice that every gag that supposedly ‘killed’ during preview screenings is a really bad gag.
Seth MacFarlane, love or hate his shows, is a very charming guy, and his interview with George Lucas is a great sample of his charms. Though there is a lot of humour in the interview, MacFarlane’s questions are pretty smart, and some of them are even original, which is really saying something if you’ve watched as many documentaries about Star Wars as I have. There aren’t any hard balls, but they’re all well lobbed.
‘Once in a Lifetime’ is a general making of featurette, that sits somewhere between EPK and genuinely informative. Any important information revealed during the commentary track can be found here, as can a bunch of full grown men acting like thirteen-year-old geeks. The whole thing runs about twenty minutes.
The Animatic Version of the entire episode is included for obsessive completests that feel the need to compare early versions of jokes. It’s followed by a compilation of every Star Wars gag in Family Guy history, and a promo for Family Guy in general.
Perhaps I’ve just lost touch with popular humour, but in general Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest was a mediocrity. There are flashes of brilliance, but they’re diluted by flashes of absolute inanity, and vice versa. Fans of both properties will likely have a good enough time, and maybe the next episode will be a corker. I haven’t given up yet.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 15th January 2008
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, A Conversation with George, Once in a Lifetime: The Making of Blue Harvest, Animatic Version, Family Guy Star Wars Clip Show, Family Guy Promo
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dominic Polcino
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Adam West
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 48 minutes
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