I like Family Guy. I like the fact that it’s crude, vulgar, and as base as humor gets. Every once in awhile, it’s nice to be able to shut off your brain and let something entertain you without actually having to think about it. With its rapid fire jokes, pop culture references, and hit-you-over-the-head-obvious innuendos, Family Guy has something for everyone, whether they’ll admit it or not. Sure, it lacks the sociopolitical satire of South Park, and the (sometimes cloying) sweetness of The Simpsons, but it makes up for it with fart jokes galore and more "Star Wars" references than you can shake a stick at.
It seemed a natural fit, then, for Family Guy to dedicate a block of episodes to the aforementioned pop culture juggernaut, with its dead-on Star Wars satire, "Blue Harvest". Not only was Blue Harvest side-splittingly funny; it was also surprisingly faithful to its source, employing everything from George Lucas’ signature “wipes” and “fades” to shot-for-shot reenactments of the films’ myriad space battles, and, with what seems like unprecedented cooperation from Lucas, himself, ample use of the film’s original score and sound effects. The end result was an example of slavish fanboy devotion - as much an homage as a parody – and both Family Guy and Star Wars fans alike couldn’t wait for the follow-up.
With "Something Something Something Dark Side" (the title’s derived from a gag in a previous episode where the Emperor reveals his formula for creating “great Star Wars dialogue”), McFarlane and company continue the saga, setting their sights on The Empire Strikes Back.
After yet another power failure interrupts the family’s TV time, Meg (Mila Kunis) suggests that Peter (Seth McFarlane) tell another story like the Star Wars tale he’d told the last time they were without television. At first Peter begins to tell the story of "Black Snake Moan", but, after Stewie nixes that, he moves on to "The Empire Strikes Back". From here on out, the episode rarely deviates from the actual plot of Lucas’ classic “middle chapter”, but, as with Blue Harvest, more than a few liberties are taken along the way, including replacing the Hoth Wompa with Cookie Monster, Lando Calrissian (“the only black guy in the galaxy”) with neurotic Jew, Mort Goldman, and Boba Fett with Peter’s nemesis, the giant chicken. Sight gags and joke-a-minute hijinks ensue, with riffs on everything from Paula Cole to "Back to the Future", as well as a surprising revelation (at least to me) about the finale of Teen Wolf that had me scouring the internet shortly after watching this!
Family Guy’s “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” style of humor guarantees there’ll at least be as many laughs as there are groans (or, in the case of some of the more obscure references, shrugs), and Something Something Something Dark Side continues in that tradition. It’s not quite up to par with Blue Harvest, but, for the bulk of its 55 minute runtime, Dark Side had me laughing out loud more than I care to admit. My wife ultimately left the room, shaking her head and mumbling something along the lines of “this is what you think is funny?”, but I was too busy laughing at the pedophile Ben Kenobi offering Luke some “Zima Soup” to notice. Sure, some of the jokes go on too long (the Juicy Fruit commercial) and others are worn thin (Nerfherder as a racial slur), but that’s Family Guy; love it or hate it.
The Blu-ray from Fox presents the “film” in its native 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which will no doubt infuriate many BD enthusiasts. I’m not quite sure why McFarlane hasn’t made the jump to 16:9 with Family Guy, especially seeing as how both The Cleveland Show and American Dad – both McFarlane shows – currently air in that aspect ratio, but them’s the breaks. If you watch the first run episodes of the series on Fox, you’ll already be used to it.
The image quality is actually quite nice! Much better than what I expected from…well…Family Guy! The color is rich and vibrant, and the various ships and space stations (especially Bespin) have a tremendous amount of depth and detail to them. The characters, themselves, look about as good as they always do in HD, but, occasionally, you’ll spot a few little flourishes, like forced perspective or rotoscoping effects, that really takes things to a whole other level.
The real surprise, at least for me, came in the quality of the 5.1 DTS HD audio track. Wow, talk about aggressive! This thing had my speaker’s rumbling from the word go, with especially robust bass, and really immersive use of the surrounds. The kicker, here, is the use of the actual Empire score and sound effects, which sound absolutely amazing. And hearing the Empire’s Theme in HD quality audio? Oh, sweet epiphany…
Extras include a feature length commentary with McFarlane, director, Dominic Polcino, and Seth Green, amongst others. It’s a fairly crowded track, with a lot of talking over one another and a fair amount of guffawing at bits, but there’s a decent amount of dirt shared here, as well, and it’s a fairly entertaining listen. The Table Read (HD), which comes in at just under 50 minutes, is especially fun if only to see the chameleonic McFarlane slip effortlessly from one character to another. There are also some notable differences between what’s being rehearsed here and what made it to the final product.
Other extras include a fantastic pop-up trivia track, a poster art featurette (HD), a short animatics featurette (HD), and a very brief sneak peek at the table read for the final chapter in the saga, “We’re Getting a Bad Feeling About This”. Rounding out the supplements are an assortment of trailers (HD) for other Fox releases.
If you loved Blue Harvest, you’ll no doubt enjoy Something Something Something Dark Side. While a bit of the novelty has worn off and, as a result, more jokes “miss” than “hit”, the gags come at such a rapid fire pace you may not even notice the occasional lull. If you’re not a Family Guy fan, this will not convert you. If anything, it’ll probably only add to your disdain for the series as the writers plumb new depths of bad taste and vulgarity, here. As for the Blu-ray, Fox delivers a decent assortment of HD extras, a solid video transfer, and an outstanding audio track, but purists may balk at the lack of a widescreen transfer, especially considering the cost of the Blu-ray over the standard DVD.