Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest Review
"The power's out...what are we gonna do now? Well, we could light some candles and read!" Back in 1977 (or 1978 if you lived in the more remote parts of the country), that's exactly what you did when the power went out, which, given how the pre-Thatcherite National Grid was built from rubber bands, staples and old magazine covers, it did a lot. And that's probably part of the appeal of Star Wars.
The seventies was a dreary old time in which we had to invent glam rock and dress like girls just to brighten up skylines dominated by the cooling stacks of coal-fired power stations. None of that seemed to exist in Star Wars, which was a place where no one wore stack heels but waistcoats still seemed in fashion. But we did have railings, which was one advantage that seventies Earth did have over the Death Star. And no yawning chasms in which to spill. We might have coughed up our coal dust-scarred lungs in the darkness but we tended not to fall great distances.
Blue Harvest is Family Guy's retelling of Star Wars with the kind of humour that's defined by knowing there are no railings in the Empire, that there's an X-Wing pilot named Porkins for no more reason than that he's a bit fat and that it was a bit rich of Luke Skywalker to be lecturing Han Solo on the force when he had only learned of it a few hours earlier. ""What...that thing you just found out about three hours ago and are now judging me for not believing in?" Well, all of that and the kind of childish but often very funny smut that George Lucas had no place for. Lucas, if not personally, had Carrie Fisher's breasts taped down but Blue Harvest has this early line of dialogue, coming after that iconic shot of the Tantive IV being pursued by the Star Destroyer, "Sounds like we're being boarded from the rear...and not the 'hey-take-a-deep-breath-let's-experiment' kind of boarded from the rear!" Blue Harvest is rude, knowing and funny.
But it's maybe not that funny. The short running length and sketches of the characters does rather draw the viewer to compare Blue Harvest to the little skits between the action in the Lego Star Wars games. Those moments gave us Luke Skywalker testing out his lightsaber by chopping C3-P0's head off, losing R2-D2 off the back of his land speeder and of Obi-Wan performing a Jedi mind trick via some spinning stars and a, "Do-do-do-doo-do-doh!" There's nothing quite so unpredictable in Blue Harvest with the exception of the rundown of Red Squadron, one that includes Red Buttons, Simply Red and the voice of Sean Connery announcing the presence of Red October, whereupon a giant submarine dwarfs the X-Wing fighters. The paedophile jokes that surround the child-bothering Mr Herbert as Obi-Wan get very tired very quickly, even to his flaccid lightsaber becoming erect on his sighting Luke Skywalker while some were never very funny to begin with, such as the rebels sneaking into the Death Star to Minnie The Moocher in a gag inspired by The Blues Brothers or Han Solo rescuing a sofa from the Death Star's garbage disposal. And what was funny in Airplane! doesn't really work here, least of all, "And Leia's getting larger!"
There is plenty in this to satisfy fans of Family Guy or of Star Wars or both but as the episode ends with Peter and Chris arguing who got there first, Robot Chicken or Family Guy, the answer is more simple, BentTV did with their Star Wars Gangsta Rap. With the style of animation looking as though Adobe Flash had some place in the making of the episode, this viewer was always expecting a playa-hating Yoda, a hip-hop Emperor, Luke Skywalker ordering R2-D2 to make up a mighty fine gin'n'tonic and a line of Stormtroopers dancing to, "We got Death Star! We got Death Star!" Blue Harvest is at its best when, like Star Wars Gangsta Rap, it points out the obvious to an audience overly familiar with Star Wars, such as its explanation of the design flaw in the Death Star. "Well...there's this little hole...can't we board it up or put some plywood over it or something?" These moments almost make Blue Harvest but there's not quite enough of them, not least from a team who remember Porkins quite so well as this viewer.
Presented in 1.33:1, Blue Harvest certainly looks good. The animation is sharp and well-defined, the picture is rich and colourful and while there isn't very much detail in the film, the backgrounds are drawn well and make good reference to the film. Indeed, both the backgrounds and the characters are often so like Star Wars that there is the temptation to think that rotoscoping was used but this is denied in the commentary. There is also a mix of live-action explosions, or what seems to be live-action, in the middle of the animation including the blowing-up of the Death Star that does look to have been lifted out of the film untouched. And from the original Star Wars mind, not the Special Edition.
The DD5.1 audio track is fine but everything zips by so quickly and without any pausing for effect that its hard to pick out any moments in which the rear channels are made good use of. However, the dialogue has been presented with due care, as are the pastiches of the Star Wars score, and Blue Harvest sounds fine for the most part. There are also English subtitles throughout.
Commentary: Seth MacFarlane is the first voice that you'll hear on this commentary, introducing those whom he's sharing this screening room with, including Patrick Clark, Mike Elias, David Goodman, Joseph Lee, Dominic Polcino, Danny Smith, Alec Sulkin and Kara Vallow. There aren't many dull moments in this as the contributors recall their making of the episode, the writing of the episode, its animation and how supportive Lucasfilm were of Blue Harvest.
A Conversation With George (12m28s): What other George could it be but Lucas? After showing George Lucas this episode of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane sat down with the creator of Star Wars for a chat about his films...who swears! I've never heard George Lucas swear. He also talks music, sunsets and decides whether his management style is more Emperor or Admiral Ackbar.
Once In A Lifetime: Making Of... (19m08s): Interspersed with interviews with the crew, including writer, directors and others, this goes behind the scenes at the making of Blue Harvest. By peeking over the shoulders of the animators, presenting storyboards and showing a work-in-progess, this offers the viewer a reasonably complete look at how this episode was brought to television. The best bit comes with what we see of the screenings of Blue Harvest to an audience, including talk of the reaction by Star Wars fans to viewing ten minutes of it at a convention.
Animatic Version (40m52s): As per the title, this is the animatic version of Blue Harvest, complete with almost all the same gags although there are some slight changes.
Family Guy Star Wars Clip Show (9m39s): As a show that, even in a single episode, offers plenty of spoofs of popular culture, it's no surprise that there's plenty of Star Wars gags in old episodes of Family Guy. This collects all of them into a single feature on this DVD, including laser-surgery-by-lightsaber, Stewie firing on spermatozoa on the testicular rim and Peter conducting the sand people choir. "Sand people frighten easily but they'll be back...and in greater numbers!"
Introduction To Family Guy (5m45s): There is also an option to play this before the episode but through a series of clips, this presents an introduction to each character in the show.
Bonus Episode - North by North Quahog (21m59s): An odd inclusion given that this is the most-watched episode of Family Guy, even creeping ahead of Blue Harvest. You'd have thought they'd have included an unpopular and unwatched one rather than a good one. This episode sees Peter and Lois take a second honeymoon, steal the sequel to The Passion Of The Christ - the Chris Tucker-starring Crucify This! - and go on the run from Mel Gibson in a spoof of North By Northwest.
Finally, there is an Easter Egg (2m42s) - a read-through of a couple of scenes from the script - and the Something Something Something Dark Side teaser (21s). In a gesture typical of Fox, who are very much better at this than any other studio, all of these special features, including the commentary, are subtitled.