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It should be pretty easy to determine if “Something, Something Dark Side” is for you. If you like Family Guy and Star Wars, you’ll probably enjoy it. If however, you dislike either of those, you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of Seth McFarlane’s spoof of “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Having already spoofed A New Hope in last year’s “Blue Harvest,” the Family Guy gang reunite for “Something, Something Dark Side,” a similar retelling with the Griffins and various Quahog residents standing in for George Lucas’ classic characters. Having already established Chris as Luke, Lois as Leia, Peter as Han, Brian as Chewbacca, and Stewie as Darth Vader, we now get Chris’ boss Carl (a very minor character in the show) as Yoda, Lois’ dad as the Emperor, Mort Goldberg as Lando, and in a great sight gag, the giant chicken as Boba Fett.
Unfortunately, the jokes themselves are very hit and miss. There are a few really big laughs (especially in the opening crawl and Hoth sequences), but all too often it feels as if the writers are struggling to come up with ANYTHING to fill in a sequence. Every shot has some sort of verbal or visual pun taking place, and sometimes the jokes feel desperate (an AT-AT wearing Crocs? That’s the best they could come up with?). There are also a large number of jokes that rely on familiarity with pre-existing jokes from the show, and even worse, sometimes the callback to a previous joke is the entire joke.
I’ve always found it frustrating in satires and spoofs when the writers simply reference something and consider that the punchline. The reference needs to be twisted and manipulated into something new, not simply acknowledged and then dropped. Family Guy is often guilty of this, and “Something, Something Dark Side” is no exception.
However, it is obvious that the writers are fans of the Star Wars saga, and some of the best moments come from their observations of the world Lucas created. Whether it’s an unusual piece of costuming, the wires all over the ice in the Hoth caves, or the weird double-piloted Cloud City vehicles, they manage to ridicule the film without ever putting it down. It’s a delicate balance, and they pull it off well.
Also of note is the animation. On the commentary track, they mention that this is the last hand-drawn Family Guy episode (on paper). Visually, every image is a perfect marriage of Family Guy and Star Wars. The universes combine in a wonderful way, and the artistry is stunning. As any fan of Empire knows, there are a lot of extravagant setpieces in the film, and they are captured here flawlessly.
There are a few notable extras on this set. There is a commentary track featuring several of the cast and crew that alternates between being interesting and a complete waste of time. They end up just talking to each other almost as much as they talk to the audience, and while there is a lot of insight given in little doses, it’s not really worth the listen. Much more entertaining are the “Family Guy Fact-Ups.” As you watch the film, fun little pieces of information pop up; some informative, and sometimes just funny.
There is also a feature on the painting of the poster art, and an animatic scene to scene with commentary. These are semi-interesting, but at this point, we’ve seen this sort of thing too many times before. The most interesting extra is the table read of a rough draft of the first two acts. I love voice-over acting, and it was fascinating to watch the cast at work, alternating between their many different voices. There is also a brief clip of the table read for the next film, “We Have A Bad Feeling About This,” a spoof on “Return of the Jedi.”
I enjoyed the movie for what it was. It was entertaining and I laughed. However, I don’t know if I’d call it “good.” Too many of the jokes fall flat, and too many sequences felt forced. It’s worth seeing if you’re already a fan, but it’s not going to be remembered as anything more than a fun diversion. For some reason, Fox decided not to air this as an episode (unlike Blue Harvest), so the only way to see it is on the newly released Blu-Ray. It would make a good rental, but as a purchase, it’s for the die-hard fans only.