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Family Guy:
Something, Something,
Something, Dark Side

It's hard to argue for or against the merits of Family Guy's second Star Wars episode, Something Something Something Dark Side. At best, humor is a subjective thing, and people laugh at different things. Up top, I'll just say that it didn't work as well for me as did the previous parody, Blue Harvest.

For me, Family Guy is a lot more hit and miss than it is for others, but when I watched Blue Harvest, which forced Seth McFarlane and his writers into following a lot more structure than usual, the experience cured me of my curmudgeonly ways and briefly made me into a regular watcher of the show.

But time, time, time, look what's become of me. Every now and then I check back in and get a few laughs, and regardless of whether you think the show is genius or a sign of the apocalypse, McFarlane stands out as an incredibly inventive, creative man. Unfortunately, he also often takes the easy way out with his humor.

That worked easily when taking shots at Star Wars. Proving exactly what Harrison Ford meant when he complained to George Lucas, "you can write it, but nobody can say it," Blue Harvest exposed all the weaknesses of a beloved childhood memory. Without stepping outside the action to comment, as Brian the Dog does here, McFarlane and company used a lot more of the set-ups and dialogue from the original movie than you might think.

With just some slightly different readings and funnier voices - which probably made Lucas jealous and sparked that whole Truman Capote Hutt in Clone Wars -- they spun comedy gold. The legend had it coming.

Even if you don't watch Family Guy, the characterizations are strong enough to keep it funny. Putting two overweight guys in the roles of Han and Luke is funny (even geekier funny if you've ever read Lucas' first draft. Okay, clearly, I know too much).

If I can pinpoint why I didn't like the sequel as much, it may be that it's because The Empire Strikes Back is just a better movie. Redoing the lines isn't enough; in some places, that's all the show really tries, or just replaces with an obscenity. (Okay, sometimes that works, but the Fanboy Planet staff has been arguing over one such replacement for weeks - once again, it's subjective, and damn McFarlane for this being such a clear over/under 40 division.)

Still, it's a funny show, with the use of Stewie as Darth Vader being a brilliant joke that might even last all the way through the parodies of Episodes 1, 2 and 3. In fact, if Lucas would go back and insert Stewie in place of Hayden Christiansen, I might enjoy those movies.

We got sent the Blu-Ray edition, and even with television animation, it's the way to go, A very crisp transfer gets topped by the ability to have little pop-up factoids come in - some of which are funnier than the action on screen.

Though the tone of the commentary options are a little self-congratulatory - success would do that to people - the disc includes a lot of analysis of the thinking behind the process. That includes a table read of the inevitable parody of Return of the Jedi that's coming, though it presumably won't take the three years it took the movies, and which are threatened here.

Overall, Something Something Something Dark Side is worth the hour of watching, and probably better than it will be censored on television. For fans, the extras are going to be gold. For non-fans, at least the pop-up video version is worth a second look. The only thing I'd really want more is a special edition with t-shirt and trading cards. Because real Star Wars fans want more, even when they're only lukewarm to it.

Derek McCaw

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