The Feature: 4/5The power goes out in the Griffin household once again, forcing patriarch Peter (voiced by Seth McFarlane) to entertain his family through the oral tradition of storytelling. Though the story of "Black Snake Moan" is Peter's first choice, the family quickly brushes it aside in favor of another mythic "Star Wars" tale...
Even if you're not a fan of the animated TV show "Family Guy" or creator Seth McFarlane's unique brand of humor, you'll find it hard to resist the charms of the latest Family Guy-zed, Star Wars parody, "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side." Much of that comes down to the novelty of seeing whole sequences from "The Empire Strikes Back" recreated in animated form; less so the perfunctory use of "Family Guy" characters in the major roles. The former actually provides some needed balance to the usual non-stop, nonsensical asides, tangents and sight gags that typify a "Family Guy" episode. And though parodies are not always meant as homages to their source material, the obvious love and respect for the original trilogy that permeates "Something, Something" is ultimately what makes it so broadly appealing, just as "Blue Harvest" was before it. I wouldn't expect the same kind of entertainment factor for a McFarlane send up of the prequel trilogy, which better explains why there are no plans to do so, citations of plot complexity notwithstanding.
"Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side" debuts on Blu-ray and DVD in advance of it airing on the Fox Network in May 2010. Broadcast censors will inevitably clean up some of its language, so viewing it on disc will be the only way to see it unaltered.
Video Quality: 4.5/5The film is accurately framed at 1.33:1 and presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec. Black levels are excellent, stable and deep. Fine object detail is hard to judge, given the lack of surface textures, but several shots of dense starfields and the sharpness of illustration lines indicate very good clarity and detail. Colors also exhibit satisfying depth and fidelity, the orange of Lois's hair and various hues of lightsaber blades and laser fire lending pop to an otherwise black, grey and brown color palette. Though I noticed a couple instances of aliasing along diagonal edges, they are the only faults in an otherwise excellent transfer.
Audio Quality: 2.5/5The DTS-HD Master Audio track is front-stage dominant, and fairly concentrated towards the center. The rear and front surrounds perk up to provide some fairly blunt directional pans and effects. LFE is infrequent, but deep and clean. Dialogue, however, has a slight shrillness or edge to it, making listening uncomfortable at higher volume levels. Though I finally found a satisfactory volume setting, I continued to notice the problem throughout the screening.
Special Features: 3.5/5Though the commentary is a waste of time, the rest of the items in the special features package provide some interesting behind-the-scenes information, the best being the "Fact-Ups" pop-up trivia item.
Commentary with Executive Producers Seth McFarlane, Mark Hentemann, and David A. Goodman, Writer Kirker Butler, Director Dominic Polcino, and Actor Seth Green: Not surprisingly, the group is never quite on task, cracking wise and making lots of jokes at each others' expense. Scattered here and there are some anecdotes about writing, script changes, and animation work, but not enough to recommend the commentary. Fortunately, there's the "Fact-Ups" feature, which provides a better balance of humorous asides and genuine behind-the-scenes information.
Family Fact-Ups: Pop-up trivia runs through the episode and features a good mix of production-related information and tangential humor and factoids, making it preferable to the unfocused commentary track.
The Dark Side of Poster Art (9:18, HD): Character Designer Mick Cassidy and Painter Joe Vaux talk about "Family Guy-zing" the iconic "Empire" poster, which was painted by Roger Kastel.
Animatic Scene-to-Scene with Commentary by Director Dominic Polcino (6:36, HD): Six scenes are shown side-by-side with their original, roughly animated storyboard sequences. Polcino explains the storyboards were the last to use pencil-drawn artwork, the animators having since moved on to drawing directly in the computer through an electronic tablet.
Table Read of "Something, Something..." Acts 1 and 2 (49:27, HD): The camera is locked down in a wide shot on the opposite side of the room from the voice talent, so there goes most of the entertainment value. However, the footage does offer a glimpse at an earlier version of the script, making it somewhat interesting for comparison purposes.
Sneak Peek of "Family Guy: Episode VI: We Have A Bad Feeling About This" Table Read (2:26, HD): Features a slighter better shot of the voice talent as they read a portion of the Han Solo defrosting scene.
Previews: For "Seth McFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy," "Jennifer's Body" and "Gentlemen Broncos."
Digital Copy: Download a digital file for playback on a computer or portable device. Compatible with Mac and Windows.
RecapThe Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 2.5/5
Special Features: 3.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5
An entertaining, "Family Guy" send up of "The Empire Strikes Back" gets an excellent video presentation, somewhat problematic audio treatment, and a decent set of special features.