Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More Enduring With More Viewings, Blue Harvest Is Pretty Close To Perfect!

The Good: A very cool celebration of Star Wars, Fun concept, DVD bonus features, Collectibles, Humor
The Bad: Too often gives a straightforward rewrite of A New Hope, Bulky box for all features.
The Basics: With "Blue Harvest," Family Guy presents a parody that is sometimes too straight from the source to be a true parody, but the bonus features sell the DVD!

Following the success of the Family Guy "Freakin' Party Pack" which encapsulated all of the prior Family Guy DVD materials and repackaged them with a bunch of goodies like cards, poker chips, and a ping pong set, it seemed natural that the next Family Guy DVD release would try to capitalize on the popularity of that level of fan and with the DVD release of the forty-eight minute sixth-season premiere, Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest it is unsurprising that it was released first with a deluxe collector's edition chock full of DVD and non-programming bonuses.

Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest is a remarkably straightforward concept episode of Family Guy; the power goes out at the Griffin household and Peter tells the story of Star Wars, with his usual unique spin on things. Yes, it's Star Wars rewritten with cultural references, pedophilia jokes and quips at the inconsistencies and problems within Star Wars: A New Hope (click here for my review of that!).

Recast with Family Guy characters, "Blue Harvest"/A New Hope is the story of Luke Skywalker coming into possession of two droids who contain the plans to the Death Star, the ultimate weapon in the galaxy. After delivering the plans to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke flees his home planet of Tatooine to help deliver the plans to Princess Leia's father on Alderaan. Unfortunately for Luke, Han and Obi-Wan, Alderaan has been destroyed by the evil Empire and the Death Star is waiting for them. With their ship captured, Luke and Han must rescue Leia while Obi-Wan frees the ship, setting him up for an encounter with the evil Darth Vader.

It sounds pretty straightforward and largely, the episode is. The parts are recast with Family Guy characters in the roles: Chris takes Luke Skywalker, Peter takes Han Solo, Brian is Chewbacca, Stewie is Darth Vader, Lois is Princess Leia, Herbert is Obi-Wan, Adam West is Tarkin, Quagmire is C-3P0 and Cleveland is R2-D2. Meg makes a very brief appearance as the trash compactor monster and Joe pops up near the end as Biggs.

The problem with the "Blue Harvest" episode is more often than not, it is a straight retelling of A New Hope with little actual parody or even excessive humor. As the episode progresses, space battles are mostly straightforward and the episode truly becomes a retelling with little embellishment of A New Hope. Sure, there are exceptions to that, like Peter grabbing a couch from the trash compactor and trying to fit it into the Millennium Falcon and the Wacky Waving Proton Powered Droid, which is a call-back to a Family Guy joke, but more often than not, "Blue Harvest" is A New Hope with Family Guy characters.

And it is funny and satirical to the source material, like Luke pointing out that a parsec is a unit of distance, not time and the sandtrooper calling the other sandtrooper on dismissing the idea that the droids might be behind the locked door. In that way "Blue Harvest" is a real treat for anyone who loves Star Wars and Family Guy. The episode has the irreverence and crass humor of Family Guy from lightsaber erectile dysfunction jokes to the Cleveland R2-D2 pot references.

Actually, that's a great example of where "Blue Harvest" is a call-back to Family Guy's prior works as opposed to truly pioneering something new with this extended episode. We saw Cleveland doing the pot smoking jokes in the opening to Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story. And while things like Herbert as Obi-Wan constantly hitting on Chris as Luke works because that is the essential Herbert character, things like the Cleveland as R2-D2 going for pot is less characterization than the reuse of a gag. And it was not one of the better ones at that.

"Blue Harvest" really moves, though and amid the repetition of lines from A New Hope, Seth MacFarlane and his team truly move along the essential plot of the film while trimming out the fat. There are a few gags put back into the episode that did not make it to broadcast, two involving swearing and getting the full, uncensored footage does add some additional value to the DVD presentation of what is essentially a single episode and a parody that follows incredibly closely to the source material.

To be fair, it is a parody that illustrates a genuine appreciation for the source material, much of which is exactly animated frames of A New Hope in Family Guy style. But things like the appearance of John Williams within the work to acknowledge the score becomes a real treat and illustrates a deep love that the Family Guy team has for A New Hope and the Star Wars franchise.

But the primary material is at best average. The jokes are amusing - the best are the opening scrawl and the cap on the episode after the A New Hope parody end - but it is pretty straightforward. It is the bonus materials that truly sell the DVD.

As far as DVD bonus features, "Blue Harvest" represents the high level of quality bonus features that Family Guy fans have come to expect from the series. "Blue Harvest" has full commentary from Seth MacFarlane and some of the other people who work on Family Guy. It is funny, it illustrates a reverence and willingness to parody both Star Wars and Family Guy and it is very entertaining. There is a promo for Family Guy that is pretty much take-it-or-leave it as well as a full animatic of the film to watch instead of the finished product that allows devoted fans to see just how much was changed in terms of the style development. There is also a behind-the-scenes featurette on how "Blue Harvest" was developed and created and it's an enjoyable featurette that informs the viewers very much on the process stories and it's pretty much vital to anyone who loves behind-the-scenes information. As well, one of the scenes from "Blue Harvest" is presented in the bonus features as a 3-D bit and that's cute. There are no deleted scenes. There is, however, a collection of all prior Family Guy references to Star Wars in a neat little clip show made up for the DVD.

The grail of the DVD programming for the video is the conversation between Seth MacFarlane and George Lucas. MacFarlane manages not to fawn in front of the director whose work has inspired so many of his gags and pop-culture references. The conversation illustrates how giving Lucas can be with his material and it's a treat for Star Wars and Family Guy fans alike and it clearly sets up the forthcoming sequel . . .

Interestingly enough the DVD also comes with a digital download disc so those who purchase the DVD may easily upload it to a Mac platform or PC DVD-ROM drive. This is an interesting bonus disc as it allows fans using digital media to play the primary programming on things like their video iPods and such.

The Deluxe edition adds no additional DVD footage, but is packed with goodies. There are the 3-D glasses so the 3-D bonus feature may be easily viewed. There's a very cool booklet that shows the artistic development of the A New Hope development of the Family Guy characters and there are some neat concept sketches that did not make the final cut! There is a pack of "Blue Harvest" trading cards in the style of the Star Wars trading cards which is pretty cool, up to the fact that the backs of the cards form a nine-card mural!

The real bonus for the deluxe edition is an adult XL t-shirt of the "Blue Harvest" parody poster for the film (it's the same as the DVD cover art). It's a durable black cotton with the image silk-screened on it and with current promotions it's easy to find the deluxe edition with the shirt for under $25.00 giving one entertainment and a wearable collectible!

This set is a must for Family Guy and Star Wars fans with a sense of humor, but the bonus materials are truly all that will give those not already sold on the series an enduring value from this set. And it holds up well over the multiple viewings, but in this case, it's nice to see how much MacFarlane and his team want to bribe the fans to buy the big set!

For other animated works by Seth MacFarlane, please check out my reviews of:
Family Guy Volume 6
Family Guy Volume 7
Family Guy Presents Something, Something, Something Dark Side
Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade Of Cartoon Comedy
Family Guy Volume 8
Family Guy Presents Partial Terms Of Endearment


For other television reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing!

© 2010, 2009, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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