Something, Something, Something, Dark Side (US - BD)
Gabe may have actually had enough Star Wars spoofs, if that's possible...
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away Family Guy was still a funny and unique series. It was cancelled at the height of its comedic power, and left to languish in Adult Swim repeats. But then it came back, with a vengeance. In the following years the show became a franchise, leading to two other shows, American Dad (which I believe has maintained a relatively amusing integrity) and The Cleveland Show (which isn’t funny at all). Soon the creative forces (pun intended) were shooting fish in barrels with an hour long Star Wars spoof entitled Blue Harvest. From there the only logical step was a second Star Wars spoof, this time concerned with The Empire Strikes Back, entitled Something, Something, Something, Dark Side.
The really bad news is the best joke in the whole of this new spoof comes at the top of the show during the opening crawl. It kind of slides slowly downhill from there. There are plenty of snickers and giggles, but there tends to be a lot of space between them, and I can’t recall a single laugh out loud moment. It’s all in-keeping with the series’ general decline—everyone is out of ideas, and they really aren’t willing to put the effort into changing things up. And if there was one thing in the realms of pop culture that’s already been bled to spoof death, it’s Star Wars, in all its versions and episodes. The episode does create the proper sense of nostalgia, and there is something amusing about seeing the super-deformed Family Guy characters re-enacting our favourite Empire moments, but this develops into the episode’s biggest problem, that of time wasted on re-enactment without jokes. It’s like those long pauses on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where the audience is forced to experience a bad movie without the hand holding support of the commentary. It’s an odd waste of space, in an already unfortunately tired little ‘film’.
Robot Chicken, an Adult Swim based stop motion series that has also memorably spoofed Star Wars twice now, probably succeeds where Family Guy fails through the sketch concept alone, which is kind of ironic considering the cutaway aspect of Family Guy is what makes the standard series so obnoxious. Perhaps the Robot Chicken writers also succeed through sheer quantity of gags, and their refusal to stick to the confines of each film. Perhaps the Robot Chicken writers are just more creative and funny people. I don’t know, but I give this little victory to Seth Green and his family of creative types yet again. Family Guy gets huge credit for picking John Benjamin to voice Yoda, based on the character he’d already played on the regular series. Any John Benjamin is good. For my customary dopey complaint, I’ll say that so much of the fun of R2-D2 is that the original character doesn’t speak in human words, and choosing Cleveland as his representative here is just a bad decision, not to mention the fact that the black guy jokes on Family Guy grew old before Cleveland was given his own series.
This marks the first Family Guy product released on the 1080p format, so I suppose that’s something to celebrate for fans. The show’s style doesn’t lend itself to high definition outside of its general crispness and colour quality. There are a few inconsistencies in background colours, which if you’re really, really looking flutter a bit, and the overall frame rate is a little inconsistent. There’s quite a bit of jitter during the end credits. The hi-def is a plus so far as the solid quality of the brighter colours is concerned, and the digital spaceships feature enough fine detail to not waste the format. I’m not sure why the producers and director decided not to go with the full 1.78:1 ratio, or even a Empire Strikes Back accurate 2.35:1, but I suppose it doesn’t ruin the episode or anything. Fans of Rocky IV and Her Alibi should be excited to see parts of the films lovingly represented in hi-def, if not in a sad 1.33:1 framing.
Just like the DVD version of Family Guy: Blue Harvest, this episode is mixed into a reasonably aggressive 5.1 mix. Unlike the DVD this mix is lossless DTS-HD 5.1. Truthfully it’s not really all that much more impressive than the 2.0 presentation presented as part of the pop-up version of the film, but it’s still a fun time. Basically were talking a micro version of the original tracks, with fully represented John Williams score, and slightly less impressive versions of the original sound effects. There are directional effects aplenty, and all channels are almost always at least somewhat busy (love that patented spaceship hum). The dialogue is well centred, and perfectly clear, the LFE gets a nice workout throughout, and everything is generally mixed with ideal balance.
The extras begin with a commentary featuring producers Seth MacFarlane, Mark Hen Hentemann and David A. Goodman, writer Kirker Butler, director Dominic Polcino, and actor Seth Green. It’s a pretty even track so far as input is concerned, and unsurprisingly the focus is not really on the episode. Green admits right off the bat that he’s not seen the episode yet. Actually, when they do mention the on screen action it usually puts a negative shadow on things, such as jokes that were recycled from the cutting room floor of old episodes. Seth Green is the darling of the track, but MacFarlane’s attention to the music is consistently impressive. The track is augmented by a pop-up track, which is unfortunately presented as its own movie track on the disc, so one can’t watch the film with both extras engaged at the same time. The pop-ups overlap a lot with the commentary, but are more steadily informative/entertaining.
The featurettes start with ‘The Dark Side of Poster Art’ (09:20, HD), which covers the not particularly entertaining story of painting the cover art for the disc, fun for having Robert Kastel (the original artist of the original Empire poster), but not particularly entertaining. Next is an animatic exploration with commentary from director Polcino (06:40, HD), which compares the rather well animated animatic to the final piece. This is followed by acts one and two table read (49:30, HD), which is kind of brutally long, and probably entertaining only to those in the room as the cameras were rolling. There are some difference between the read and the final product, but mostly it’s just a roomful of people laughing at their own jokes. Things end with a sneak peek at the table read for the next instalment in the Family Guy Star Wars series (02:30, HD).
It’s probably unfair to expect much out of Family Guy this late in the game. Even the best shows of this kind tend to burn out young, even The Simpsons, but the lazy streak verified by this disc’s audio commentary is certainly a step down by anyone’s standards. Robot Chicken’s Star Wars efforts are more steadily amusing to this funny bone, but Something, Something, Something, Dark Side has just enough spark for me to tune in to the third, and likely last entry in this series. This Blu-ray release looks and sounds just fine, and is surely more impressive than a standard definition DVD or television broadcast, but the extras are rather thin and disappointing.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 22nd December 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: Cantonese, Danish, Finnish, French, Mandarin, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish, English HoH
Extras: Audio Commentary, Family Guy Fact-Ups, The Dark Side of Poster Art, Animatic Scene-to-Scene with Commentary by Dominic Polcino, Something, Something, Something, Dark Side Table Read, Sneak Peak at ‘We Have a Bad Feeling About This’ Table Read, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dominic Polcino
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mike Henry
Genre: Adventure, Animation and Comedy
Length: 55 minutes