Saturday, 13 July 2013



Now available on triple play edition DVD / Blu-ray from FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Reviewed by Scott Weller


We haven’t even reached next year’s milestone thirtieth anniversary of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and yet the celebrations have already gotten off to a tremendous start with not one but two comic forays into the STAR WARS universe and its second film in the Original Trilogy. Despite EMPIRE’s serious, follow us into the pits of despair/we’ve been soundly defeated by the Imperials mindset, Seth Green’s ROBOT CHICKEN had already brilliantly mined great comedy gold from the films darker situations earlier in the Summer. And now, with Christmas unleashed upon us bigger than ever, its time to enjoy the grand humour of “the other” Seth-MacFarlane that is!!- in his own unique, twisted way with the DVD prior to TV transmission release of his second opus linking STAR WARS to his FAMILY GUY universe: SOMETHING, SOMETHING, SOMETHING, DARK SIDE. Be warned, all you young children and Irvin Kershner’s out there, this goes beyond anything you remember in 1980!

Though a lot of great scenes from this episode have already been witnessed in the two advance trailers for the DVD release-a serious but unavoidable problem with today’s we’ve only got a short time to hit you modern publicity machine-there’s still plenty more golden nuggets for fans of both STAR WARS and FAMILY GUY to savour within its fifty two minute duration. The episode starts with another power outage affecting theGriffin families domesticized TV viewing, sparking Peter’s second oratory helping within George Lucas’s universe. With a proceeding title crawl that goes beyond the previous films musings/fixations on Angelina Jolie as Gia, with words this time that apparently caused some controversy with the suits at TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX (leading to it needing special approval from the highest echelons of the FOX management before it made final release- it’s nice to know these guys still have a sense of humour, though, especially linked to STAR WARS!), the talented writers and production team at FUZZY DOOR PRODUCTIONS take the classic scenes and dialogue of this universal, eternally popular landmark sequel and literally sends it into outrageous new realms with totally fresh perspectives in which they are more than happy to poke firm and sometimes below the belt adult humour into it (as only FAMILY GUY knows how). And let’s not forget their clever, consistently funny swipes at some of EMPIRE’s noticeable after a few watches plot holes, too! 

New worlds, new dangers for our heroes.

FAMILY GUY without the crude humour, occasional sick visual gags and its mandate of “don’t worry, we’re an equal opportunities offender” consistency just wouldn’t be the same without it, so it’s nice to report there’s been no compromises even in this adaptation of general family fare and nostalgia, though perhaps this effort, made for DVD release first, feels a little bit more edgier in some regards as an opposite to the first STAR WARS transfer. Regular FG scripter Kirker Butler’s adaptation stays rigidly within the confines of the film, but perhaps it may be a little bit too faithful in some respects, in that some of the comedy he and the rest of the team creates feels a little restricted and could have been expanded on for even more laughs-SSSDS sadly has no classic running gag scene like the one with Peter and Brian getting the used couch onto the Millennium Falcon from the previous STAR WARS edition and I missed touches like that. On the plus side, though, there are still some great inspired creative peaks that continue to keep the show fresh and unique, including a homage to the best of bad early 80’s US advertising, especially in one scene following Peter’s rescue of Chris on Hoth.

All of our FG main characters return to their previously successful, wonderfully transferred STAR WARS counterpart roles – the force of nature that is Peter Griffin is back as Han, Lois is a defiant Leia, and an always waaay out of his depth Chris is Luke, etc. Brian as Chewbacca sadly gets very little to do this time around, though there are a couple of notable lines. And, despite the woeful lack of substantial material for Quagmire in this episode (a bit like Threepio in the actual film), we’re hoping that the sexual innuendo and dirty practises of the golden droid character will be back in a big way with the characters greater prominence in Jabba’s Palace and with the Ewoks for the upcoming EPISODE VI. Nice to see Mister Herbert as Kenobi, too, bringing a few priceless moments to contribute, even in spirit form!! As for Meg… well, I feel for her, I really do-first she was a Dia-noga in STAR WARS and now… as to what she’s become in EMPIRE, aw man, it’s just plain hilarious! It is a noteworthy cameo-after this, we’re wondering if the writers will be cruel enough to take it one step further and make her play Jabba the Hutt...

The original 1980 film’s greatest strength saw the further development of its previously established core characters, and especially the relationship between the scoundrel space pilot and the beautiful Princess. FG’s adaptation also explores that classic turf-though Lois and Peter’s turn as Han and Leia goes off into a larger tangent of male versus female spite than the film version, which is very funny- the scene between them in the Hoth medical centre being a particularly good travesty of the original’s humorous moment- and involving varying degrees of violence. We think that the behind the scenes relationship between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in 1979 was probably pretty similar to FG’s unique interpretation, too (Carrie Fisher, who also occasionally contributes voice over work to the show, has occasionally recalled times in which she would quite willingly have liked to have slapped Harrison when she thought he was being rude!!). A hilarious new take by Peter on Harrison Ford’s “I know” brings their relationship to a premature close that left my belly aching (I really hope Harrison Ford gets to see this scene one day!!), and will remain etched in viewers minds forever. And his subsequent visage in the carbonite block is equally priceless.

Don't upset Darth Stewie!

On the darkest diaper side of the Force, Darth Stewie has never been so bad-but I have to say it’s bad in the “I’m enjoying this like a kid in a candy store” type of way rather than a “I’m going to bash Brian to a bloody pulp” way. Certainly, being in control of the galaxy suits him well, after all his failed attempts outside the STAR WARS universe in Quahog-it must be all the black leather and the big helmet!!- and he obviously, and quite deservedly, has some of the best material in this episode, from his constant sniping with Consuela the cleaning lady on his Star Destroyer, in eager lightsaber combat with Chris (“Come on, Luke, join the Dark Side. It’s really cool!"), to letting loose his Dark Side farts within the ice caves of Hoth, his reputation as the uber star of the series, at least to me, remains undiminished. And watch out Leonard Nimoy, you’ve made a new enemy today!! As for the films shocking revelation, that now world famous and almost indestructible “I am your father” scene, well…FAMILY GUY’s version is good but ultimately kinda sidesteps the issue (though I can’t wait to see how this pans out in the next one). Credit here to the other Seth, the Mister Seth Green, as I think ROBOT CHICKEN’s take on the moment, with the original voicing of Mark Hamill, has the edge on FAMILY GUY in the humour stakes.

Past the regulars, FAMILY GUY’s SSSDS surprises and delights with its new array of characters, too. There’s the blink and you’ll miss ‘em appearance of the Bounty Hunters (with a few new striking additions!), which includes Peter’s nemesis, Ernie the Giant Chicken, as Boba Fett (who we hope will get some serious action against Peter in EPISODE VI), but it’s Yoda who has the most screen time, here portrayed by Carl the convenience store manager, and is not quite the character you saw portrayed by Frank Oz-this re-imagining sees him as someone who uses the Force, and trains Luke/Chris in it, against the backdrop of a myriad of eighties pop culture references and ideology (brilliant stuff, especially the intercutting with scenes of Dolph Lundgren in training from the abysmally iconic ROCKY IV) as well as an appreciation for the acting talents and films of Ryan Reynolds and Jon Favreau. Go figure! There’s also welcome appearances from Holden “That’s a Phoney!” Coulfield, and the usual occasional nice cameos from the likes of the two James’s – Caan and Woods. Heck, even the Beatles manage to make a quick shoe-in appearance. Sadly, there’s no sign of our other faves like Adam West (he may be previously dead on the DEATH STAR but he could always have an evil twin/clone!!) or our newsreaders Tom and Dianne in this edition, unless they had material that was cut out.

No aliens, weapons, ships, vehicle or action sequence loved by STAR WARS escapes the FAMILY GUY conversion. No stone is unturned and they mine it for everything they can comedy-wise, from Peter/Han’s Tauntaun having the head of Don Rickles, whilst dear old wheelchair Joe plays the Probot (though his ultimate fate is never seen on screen). And then there’s the return of the SESAME STREET cookie monster. Only this time as the Wampa-truly inspired re-casting! And, by episode’s end I guarantee this, you’ll never be able to look at the Rebel Ion Cannon on Hoth in the same way again.

As ever the animated/cgi movie scene recreations are first rate, and the way they’ve recreated the look and feel of the movie is amazing-kudos to all the art teams involved for their continuing love and dedication to the saga and FAMILY GUY- the AT-AT Walker battle (of which the writers show no mercy to the  lumbering beats, including the now infamous scene of one of them collapsing and painfully grasping his knee in the ultimate homage to Peter’s misfortune back in Season Two) and asteroid field chase being particularly impeccable (in fact, there were a couple of non-humorous visual moments in the Walker battle that I wished had actually been in the film). And John Williams music has never sounded better-there may even be a few cues from the original recordings in there that may be longer than I remember from the score’s record/CD releases.

With the rebel fleet reorganized in space and Chris’s new robot hand now able to hold a sausage, SSDS ends on a slightly revisionist and more crowd pleasing note than the original film’s conclusion, which left people like me back in 1980 hanging on impatiently for three years for a resolution – FAMILY GUY’s unique solution provides a cute link to another film trilogy that was equally famous and heavily pop culture influencing!! And then there’s that little matter of Lando (now in the guise of a black Mort Goldman) wearing Han’s clothes. Sacrilege!

Things are going to get quite weird!

On the bonus features side of things, there’s more than enough substantial material to take it to the top of the grade, including an excellent behind the scenes/trivia info commentary on the episode, voice commentaries from “all the usual gang of idiots” that make FAMILY GUY (including the ever versatile Seth MacFarlane, Seth Green, and Kirker Butler), a fun animatic scene to scene commentary by director Dominic Polcino, and a mini documentary charting artist Joe Vaux as he paints the ultimate FG homage to Roger Kastel’s much loved EMPIRE theatrical painting GONE WITH THE WIND inspired art from 1980 (with some nice little contributions to the short film from the great artist himself). Additionally, we see FAMILY GUY beyond the animation, as we are taken into the table reading of the EMPIRE script, which intriguingly reveals all the stuff that didn’t make it to the final cut, as well as showing just how darned funny the voice actors are even without their animation guises. I could easily have just watched the whole read through.

And the FAMILY GUY STAR WARS SAGA will continue, as, also amongst the bonus features, is a clip from the read through (which included at the table a certain Mister Dee Bradley Baker from THE CLONE WARS/AMERICAN DAD no less!) for the script of EPISODE VI: WE HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS. Just by watching the few minutes of this, it looks like it has the potential to be even funnier than the first two instalments.

Surely FG creator Seth MacFarlane is both the luckiest guy and the luckiest STAR WARS fan (whose love for the saga is genuinely infectious) in the whole world-and he gets paid for doing all of this, and having a great time, too!! It’s obscene, but good luck to him. And hey, it could be worse-it could be Jonathan Ross doing all this instead of him! Now all I have to do is find some way to become Seth’s unknown English brother or his secret lovechild and then I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Don’t worry, Seth, I’m just kidding. Or am I…?

I’m more than happy to report that both FAMILY GUY and STAR WARS get the excellent treatment they deserve in this UK release that’s also available in a special triple pack containing a Blu-ray version (of which, as per usual with this format, the picture and sound is so crisp and striking, bringing out the best in the animation), a standard high quality DVD version and a digital copy edition, of which the guys and gals at FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT have come up with the ultimate stocking filler present for fans of both series. Cheers!

Now if only we got this kind of superb quality with the actual STAR WARS films themselves!

AFICIONADO OVERALL RATING-PROGRAMME AND EXTRAS: This is a worthy sequel to the first FAMILY GUY STAR WARS edition, which gets even better with repeated viewings. This release is the must have STAR WARS Xmas present of the year. Get it now, or I’ll send Stewie over! 9 out of 10

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