Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family Guy – It’s a Trap! Blu-ray Review

If you enjoyed the first two Family Guy Star Wars spoofs (Blue Harvest and Something Something Dark Side) like me, then you will probably enjoy the final installment in the saga, It’s a Trap! I’ve always been impressed with how much effort the Family Guy team puts into matching the source movies down to the smallest details such as the music cues and the editing with its dead on accuracy that thrills the inner Star Wars geek in me. 

It doesn’t hurt that George Lucas has generously instructed Lucasfilm to provide any assistance or material they need to pull these spoofs off.  When you combine authentic sound effects and music from Lucasfilm with the trademarked off the wall humor Family Guy is known for, you have a hilariously fun ride that lovingly skewers the Star Wars saga for the first two movies. This third entry however, feels a little more mean-spirited which takes away some of the fun.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)

Like the previous movies, this spoof follows the basic framework of its source movie, in this case Return of the Jedi.  In this final chapter, Luke Skywalker (Chris) and Princess Leia (Lois) travel to Tatooine to free Han Solo (Peter) by journeying to the fortress of Jabba the Hutt (Joe).  From there Luke goes to Dagobah to see Yoda and then rejoins the rebels to plan their attack on the shield generator and the Death Star.  Meanwhile the Emperor (Carter Pewterschmidt) and Darth Vader (Stewie) plan to turn Luke to the dark side, while Luke is determined to spend time with his Dad and turn him to the light side of the force.

Adding to the fun, the movie is loaded with cameos – including Patrick Stewart and Michael Dorn reprising their roles from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Adam West returns as Tarkin, Carrie Fisher (the original Princess Leia) voices Mon Mothma, and Rush Limbaugh stars as the voice of the Rancor.

Like a lot of Family Guy episodes, this hour long movie had moments that I thought were completely stupid and others that made me laugh hard.  My problem with Family Guy is that they sometimes run things into the ground deliberately and to the point of annoyance.  It’s almost like they want to provoke you since there is no other explanation for scenes like one of the sail barge where the characters nod to each other in acknowledgment of the plan that's about to be enacted. In the real movie, this lasts about seven seconds but here it’s drawn out to about five minutes.  I can understand poking fun at something that stood out for ridicule, but I have no idea why this sequence was extended as much as it was.

Although there’s a lot of laughs in the movie, it seems to pale compared to the previous two spoofs of the saga.  Even in the opening scrawl, there’s mention of burnout and being forced to make the movie to appease their Fox masters.  It all shows with a script that could have used more work by people who know Return of the Jedi better than the two credited writers.  (That’s no joke either as you can see their knowledge in one of the extras showing them playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit).  You know you may be in trouble when the opening scrawl has lines like, “Look, just do me a huge favor and lower your expectations, okay? Just this one time. I promise I’ll make it up to you. I mean, Star Wars, fine. Empire, still not bad. But on this one we ran out of gas.”

The movie’s saving grace ironically enough, is when they capture the feel from the original movie.  These spoofs have always done an excellent job replicating the action and scenes from the original saga and this one does it even better than the previous two.  There’s also more action in this movie than the others and it seems like there’s been a lot more finesse in this production over the other two.  Visually it looks great and it really made me want to pull out the original Return of the Jedi and watch it.  Between the visuals and some funny parts, combined with my deep love for the Star Wars movies, I’m giving this a higher rating than it probably deserves.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks incredible.  The first Family Guy spoof to go wide-screen, the picture is laser sharp and visually very pleasing.  Colors pop and black levels are appropriately dark and inky and I especially liked the lighting and color design of the Emperor’s throne room which was very true to the movie.  The seamless blend of traditional and computer animation looks amazing and it’s really the highlight of this disc.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is equally good.  The Star Wars movies have always sounded fantastic and this spoof is no different.  The music and effects from the film are used well here, as is John William’s fantastic score from the film.  The sound can be so good that it can almost hurt when you hear Patrick Warburton’s rumbling voice as Jabba the Hutt.  For some reason, the menu’s volume is a lot lower than the rest of the movie so be prepared to adjust it once the movie starts.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars)

I have to say that these extras are very disappointing.  It’s almost as if no one involved in the film even bothered to care about providing worthwhile special features which is even more of a travesty for a full priced Blu-ray that contains only an hour long Family Guy episode, which I think is shameful.
  • Audio Commentary—Seth MacFarlane (who only stays for about 30 minutes), executive producer/co-writer David Goodman, co-writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, producer Shannon Smith, and supervising director Peter Shin.  It’s obvious that with the exception of director Peter Shin, the rest of these people are more worried about what makes them laugh than the audience.  This is a fairly obnoxious commentary and Shin wisely keeps out of it as much as he can.

  • Animatic - The rough draft of the movie done in an animatic form. There’s a few differences but it’s really not that interesting.

  • Star Wars Trivial Pursuit: Ultimate Championship - The Family Guy: It’s a Trap production team plays Trivial Pursuit and you can watch them fail at Star Wars questions for over 30 minutes.  I can’t believe this is something that they believe that consumers will want to watch.  Not only does it show their lack of Star Wars knowledge, but who likes watching other people play Trivial Pursuit?

  • Drawing with Peter Shin - The director shows us how he  draws the characters.  While this will be completely boring to most, I think some kids might like to see how he does it and he seems like a nice guy.

  • Making the Scene - The directs shows us the transition of two animatics to their finished versions.  It’s not that interesting.

  • Lost Voice Mail from Darth to Luke - It’s not really funny and a missed opportunity.

  • Sock Puppet Outtakes – The most demoralising point of this disc.  Not only was the addition of a sock puppet into Jabba’s throne room not funny in the movie, it definitely doesn’t deserve to have an extra devoted to it.

  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

While the movie has some funny parts, overall I am disappointed despite the excellent audio/visual presentation.  The special features are an additional slap to the face and I think that it’s probably a good thing that this is the final Star Wars spoof they are doing.  The addition of  characters from American Dad and The Cleveland Show also diluted my enjoyment of the movie.  The movie is at it’s best when it’s focused more on riffing on Jedi than on extraneous Family Guy tangents.  I just wish the actual Star Wars saga was out on Blu-ray!
 Order your copy today!


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