Case Number 16947

ROBOT CHICKEN: STAR WARS EPISODE II

Warner Bros. // 2009 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // August 3rd, 2009

The Charge

Han Solo: Anyone got a joke?
Lando Calrissian: I got one. Who has two thumbs and betrayed his best friend? This guy!

Opening Statement

The original Robot Chicken: Star Wars was a fanboy's dream come true -- and for my money was way funnier than Family Guy: Blue Harvest. But having roundly razzed the entire franchise in the span of 20-some minutes, would Seth Green be able to do it again? After all, the bar for Star Wars parody has become enormously high in the past few years.

Facts of the Case

Robot Chicken makes a return visit to the Star Wars universe, and focuses on the questions that have plagued fans for years: Where did all of those bounty hunters in The Empire Strikes Back come from? How does Emperor Palpatine manage an enterprise as massive as the Galactic Empire? And what does the inside of a Sarlacc pit look like?

Armed with the blessings of George Lucas and voice talent from the original films, Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II answers these questions and more in a new television special. This DVD release includes the original half-hour special, as well as an extended 60-minute version.

The Evidence

Robot Chicken, that spastic stop-motion gem from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, has always had one foot firmly planted in the realm of sci-fi geekery; just about all of its puppets originate from old action figures. So it was no surprise in 2007 that the show was able to come up with a killer Star Wars special. It was such a success that Cartoon Network asked chicken masters Seth Green and Matthew Senreich to do it again.

Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II, while retaining the same channel-flipping style as the original, approaches things a little differently this time. For one, there's an actual plot revolving around Emperor Palpatine (Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy) putting out an ad for bounty hunters in order to capture Han Solo and company. The show attempts to fill in much of what's going on in the background of The Empire Strikes Back, and the result is some pretty hilarious material. An assortment of random skits is cool and all, as the regular Robot Chicken series has shown, but even the slightest semblance of a plot can elevate sketches to a new level. Of course, there is still enough high-volume randomness to keep everything moving.

Also elevating things a bit is the inclusion of some of the original cast of the Star Wars films. While there were some original voice actors in the first one, most notably Ahmed Best (Jar-Jar Binks), many of the characters were done by imitators or archival sound. Ahmed Best is back, along with Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), and they all ham it up to great effect. They're complimented by the awesome talents of chicken regulars Breckin Meyer (Boba Fett), Abraham Benrubi (Darth Vader), Conan O'Brien (Zuckuss), Andy Richter (Dengar), and Seth Green (Anakin Skywalker).

As perfect as the cast may be, Episode II isn't all sunshine and lightsabers. The humor is more hit-and-miss this time, especially in the extended cut. Taking the kitchen sink approach for the DVD (and why not, really?) means that you'll get to see every last thing they filmed for the special, even if there are some that aren't so special. The beauty of the show's format, however, is that the clunkers never linger. Before you can even get the word "lame" out of your mouth, the skit is replaced with a new one.

The production values for Episode II are pretty astounding, especially when you find out that they used the same lenses and lighting as the movies in order to accurately recreate the look. The sound and video are both top-notch, even if the show is in full frame. If you find that doubling the original television broadcast's runtime isn't enough to sate your need for space poultry, this disc has over 90 minutes of extras. Like previous Robot Chicken releases, you can watch the 30-minute episode with "Chicken Nuggets" turned on. This means that any time there's something worth talking about, a chicken icon appears on screen which then takes you to a video of Green and some of the other writers talking about the sketch. It's neat at first, although I don't understand why we need to see these guys give us what is essentially an audio commentary.

Along with the nuggets is a slew of behind-the-scenes videos, including The Making of RCSW II, Animation Meeting, Production Design, etc. All of these videos give you a good look at how this epic stop-motion animation project was created, and thankfully there's little overlap between them. Aside from the standard behind-the-scenes stuff, there are featurettes like Skywalker Ranch Premiere, which chronicles the crew's trip to meet George Lucas and screen the special. There's also a segment where Seth Green and the gang get invited to the 501st Stormtrooper Division meeting and receive special honors from a group of very dedicated galactic soldiers. Your level of interest in all of this stuff will probably vary. Still, it's good to have a complete package like this and it certainly adds to the value of what originally was a brief television special.

Closing Statement

Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II may not be as fresh and funny as the original, but it's still a very witty Star Wars parody that tries to do things a little differently. The extended version of the episode contains every last skit they filmed, which is both a blessing and a curse. The good news is that even when there is a clunker, it's gone before you know it. For fans of The Force and Adult Swim (there's probably a lot of crossover, right?), this is worth checking out.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 93
Extras: 93
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* English (SDH)

Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Broadcast and Extended Versions
* Alternate Audio
* Featurettes
* Video Blogs
* Animatics

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1334272/combined