Unusual reviewer this Chief Justice Michael Stailey is.
Our reviews of Family Guy: Volume Four (published November 27th, 2006), Family Guy: Volume Five (published December 12th, 2007), Family Guy: Volume Six (published October 30th, 2008), Family Guy: Volume Ten (published October 13th, 2012), Family Guy: It's A Trap! (published January 19th, 2011), Family Guy: It's A Trap! (Blu-Ray) (published December 21st, 2010), Family Guy: Partial Terms Of Endearment (published October 13th, 2010), Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (published September 12th, 2005), Family Guy: Volume One (published April 21st, 2003), Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side (Blu-Ray) (published December 26th, 2009), Family Guy: The Freakin' Sweet Collection (published January 26th, 2005), Family Guy: Volume Eight (published July 12th, 2010), Family Guy: Volume Nine (published December 26th, 2011), Family Guy: Volume Seven (published July 23rd, 2009), and Family Guy: Volume Three (published December 19th, 2005) are also available.
A long time ago, but somehow in the future…
Any fan of Family Guy knows that Seth MacFarlane and his creative team are huge Star Wars geeks. The number of Lucas-inspired gags peppered throughout the first five seasons far outweigh any other pop culture milieu. In fact, there have been so many references that Fox legal recommended they talk with Lucasfilm to make sure no lines were being crossed. The result of that discussion was so positive they decided to do an homage to the original film as the Season Six premiere.
Somewhat misappropriately titled Blue Harvest—Lucas' fake production name for Return of the Jedi—the hour-long episode (minus commercials) is a faithful recreation of the 1977 classic, now officially referred to as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The mini-film stars Chris (Seth Green) as Luke, Lois (Alex Borstein) as Leia, Quagmire (Seth MacFarlane) as C-3PO, Cleveland (Mike Henry) as an urban R2-D2 complete with afro and doo-rag, Peter (Seth MacFarlane) as Han, Brian (Seth MacFarlane) as Chewbacca, Meg (Mila Kunis) as the Trash Monster in a very brief unspoken appearance, Mr Herbert (Mike Henry) as Obi-Wan, and Stewie (Seth MacFarlane) as Darth Vader; with special guests Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold, Phil Lamarr as Redd Fox, Adam West as Grand Moff Tarkin, Helen Reddy, Rush Limbaugh, Judd Nelson, Leslie Nielsen, and more!
In the Gus Van Sant school of Psycho recreations, Blue Harvest is a condensed but nearly shot-for-shot retelling by director Dom Polcino. Even the most ardent Star Wars geek will be hard pressed not to appreciate the level research and detail that went into this episode. While no rotoscoping was done (animating over previously filmed live action shots), there are times you'd swear it has to be—the Millennium Falcon, R2's movements, Sandcrawlers, Tie Fighter battles. Even the special effects explosions look like they were lifted right from the film, but all were newly created by the overseas production team. This is the single most ambitious, expensive, and beautifully crafted Family Guy episode to date. CG animation is used in almost every scene. John Williams original score is used throughout with slight modifications for timing and effect. And the voice cast is in top form, specifically Mike Henry and Seth MacFarlane who are quickly approaching the level of The Simpsons' Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta as voice character gods.
Despite its Lucas reverence, Blue Harvest never loses its distinct style of humor. Classic moments include Luke introducing John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra, Tatooine's Italian tenement slums, Doctor Who hyperspace, the Asteroid field, Death Star valet parking, Han and Chewie garbage picking a couch, the Stormtrooper church, deciphering the Death Star mall map, Han calling his mom after the Tie Fighter battle, and the Magic Johnson instructional video, just to name a few. Not all the jokes work though. The Grey Poupon scene is well past its expiration date, the Blues Brothers homage falls flat, and Obi-Wan's Dirty Dancing finale is a real head scratcher.
But the best elements of the episode are Seth and company exploiting holes in the original the script: Death Star Officer #1: "Hold your fire!," Death Star Officer #2: "What are we now paying the laser?"; Explanation of the Death Star's one design flaw; Stormtrooper search of Mos Eisley; "Isn't a parsec a unit of distance not time?"; Luke: "You don't believe in the force, do you?," Han: "What, that thing you just found out about three hours ago and are now judging me for not believing in?" It's easy to tell they've seen the original film far too many times.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio, the colors are deep and rich. The landscapes and skyscapes on Tatooine are beautiful, and the black star fields are quite impressive. Add to that a 5.1 Dolby surround mix and, as I said before, you have one damn fine looking piece of animation. The only thing that would make this better is an anamorphic widescreen presentation, although, as Seth MacFarlane points out in the commentary, 16:9 doesn't really do much for animated comedy. A slam at The Simpsons Movie perhaps? You make the call.
While many Family Guy fans have cried foul at Fox releasing this one episode at $22.97 MSRP, they aren't the real target market for this title. They've already seen it and will happily wait for Volume Six to hit the shelves. However, with bonus features such as a one-on-one conversation between Seth MacFarlane and George Lucas, a full production team audio commentary, a "making of" featurette, the full-length original animatic (with many unused jokes and modified references), a montage of Star Wars related gags from the first five seasons, and several minutes of footage trimmed from its original TV debut, it's the Star Wars faithful who will want to add this one to their ever growing DVD collection.
The Force is strong with this one. Can't wait to see what they do with Empire and Jedi.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio commentary with series creator Seth MacFarlane, executive producer David Goodman, director Dominic Polcino, writer Alex Sulkin, writer Danny Smith, producer Kara Vallow, recording engineer Patrick Clark, assistant director Joseph Lee, editor Mike Elias
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