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Featured TV on DVD Review: Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side

January 19th, 2010

Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

A long time ago Family Guy aired an hour-long Star Wars special called Blue Harvest. ... Okay, it was 2007, so it wasn't that long ago. However, it was very popular with fans of the show and the movie franchise, and there's a lot of crossover between those two groups. After the success of TV special, and the countless DVD releases that followed, it comes as no surprise that they would create another spoof, this time following the events of The Empire Strikes Back.

The special starts with the Griffin family sitting around the TV when the power goes out. After some prompting from his kids, Peter tells the story of The Empire Strikes Back with Chris as Luke Skywalker, Peter as Han Solo, Brian as Chewbacca, Lois as Princess Leia, Stewie as Darth Vader, and Meg as... another monster. (Maybe in We Have a Bad Feeling About This she can play Mon Mothma and finally have a speaking part, but she will probably end up being the "Fat Dancer" in Jabba's Palace.) Hopefully I don't have to explain the plot of this special, because either you've seen The Empire Strikes Back enough times that you don't need me to, or you don't care. Since this special is 54 minutes long and the movie itself is more than two hours long, a lot is cut, or at least cut back. There are even a few live action bits from unrelated movies spliced in, including the training montage that contrasts Luke's regimen with that of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. For the most part, action scenes were trimmed the most, unless they were fodder for jokes. Jokes per minute seemed to be the deciding factor here.

On the one hand, this TV special does adhere to the basic plot of The Empire Strikes Back very well and it even points out something I missed from the movie. (Specifically, the fact that Lando Calrissian is wearing Han's clothes in the end of the movie. Although as Seth Green points out in the audio commentary track, this makes sense. After all, it's not like Lando had time to pack a suitcase before fleeing Cloud City.) On the other hand, a lot of the humor comes from the typical Non Sequitors, pop culture references, and mile-a-minute pacing that Family Guy is famous for. They do manage to balance the two sources of humor very well, but I have read complaints that they don't do enough to make Something, Something, Something, Dark Side truly a Family Guy production, while I've also read complaints that there are too many one-off jokes that have little to do with the source material. You can't please them all, obviously, but this special should please most people who are fans of Family Guy or Star Wars, and it is a must-have for fans of both.

On a side note, I do prefer the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials, which have more freedom as they don't have to follow the plot to any real degree. But I loved the end of the special with Peter and Chris arguing over who did it best, since Seth Green created Robot Chicken and Seth MacFarlane created Family Guy.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with Seth MacFarlane, and Seth Green, and others. Lots of information and good energy. They do go off-track on a number of occasions, but that's not a real issue. On the other hand, there are a few dead spots here and there. There is a pop-up trivia track as well that has many, many pieces of information, some more irrelevant than others. Next up is a 9-minute featurette on the creation of the poster and they talk about the original poster as well. There are nearly six minutes of animatics vs. final versions of several scenes with audio commentary with the director, Dominic Polcino. There is a table read of the first two acts, which runs nearly 50 minutes long. It's fun to hear the cast laugh at the jokes, while seeing the number of differences from this draft to the final version. Finally, there's a shorter two-and-a-half minute table read that acts as a preview for We Have a Bad Feeling About This.

At the moment, I don't have the Blu-ray to compare directly, and I likely won't be getting it. (The DVD was nearly a month late, so I'm lucky it arrived.) After some research, it appears the Blu-ray has a digital copy, but that's all in terms of exclusives. Also, while this was the first episode produced in High Definition, this is not the kind of animation that really needs to be seen in High Definition to be enjoyed. It's hard to say the Blu-ray is definitely worth the extra $6 more and most fans will be happy with the DVD version.

The Verdict

Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side is a great spoof of The Empire Strikes Back and fans of the TV show or of the movie will want to check it out, while fans of both will want to buy either the DVD or the Blu-ray. Is it as good as Blue Harvest? Not exactly, but it is close enough that if you bought that one and were happy, then buying this one is the way to go. Granted, the price per minute is very high for TV on DVD, but if you treat it as a TV movie and take into account the selection of extras, then it is absolutely worth it.

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