First, there was 'Blue Harvest,' and there was much rejoicing. Sure, 'Robot Chicken' did a 'Star Wars' parody right around the same time, and did it much better, but there is no comparing the audience sizes between the two franchises. A less than subtle mixture of the random, nonsensical humor of 'Family Guy' and the basic plot premise and iconic 'Star Wars' characters, the hour long special was a great success, even if it could never live up to any level of expectations.
Then came 'Something, Something, Something, Dark Side,' and I was left wanting to strangle anyone drowning out my boos with their praise. Never has so much potential been squandered. We are talking about one of the greatest films of all time as the source material, as the bleak 'The Empire Strikes Back' leaves itself open for plenty of parody and gags in the midst of its lengthy narrative, full of great scenes and superb dialogue and character development that made the mega-blockbuster original 'Star Wars' film look amateur. Instead of an intelligent, witty, or even insane parody, we were given a nonstop barrage of obscenities and cruel jokes. It had less heart than Boba Fett had dialogue.
Naturally, my expectations were somewhat low going into the final 'Family Guy: Star Wars' film, 'It's A Trap,' based on the 1983 trilogy endcap 'Return of the Jedi.' With the extreme number of projects constantly in development for creator Seth MacFarlane, on top of the hit or miss earlier entries into the farcical saga, I was just afraid that the film would live up to its meme of a title. Even the crawl for the film warns viewers to lower expectations.
Funnily enough, 'It's A Trap' is anything but, and almost gives 'Blue Harvest' a run for its money. Perhaps the stars all lined up and an idea that seemed like a foregone conclusion as much as an afterthought actually found its place and voice. Perhaps all the "edgy" jokes were pushed into one of the other countless projects in development, leaving a cleaner, tighter (by 'Family Guy' standards) structure.
"I guess the good news is we're not being pushed into a giant anus in the middle of the desert."
You remember the story of 'Return of the Jedi?' Well, that's the story of 'It's A Trap!,' with the characters of the 'Family Guy' universe playing the various roles. This time around, the casting isn't exactly dedicated solely to 'Family Guy' characters, as 'The Cleveland Show' and 'American Dad' regulars also pop up to fill the various iconic roles. Will Chris/Luke Skywalker and his ragtag group of friends strike back after their disheartening defeat at the hands of the Empire, or will Stewie/Darth Vader and Carter Pewterschmidt destroy the Rebel Alliance, and strengthen their grip across the galaxy?
Almost every fault in 'Something, Something, Something, Dark Side' (to be referred to as 'SSSDS' for the rest of the review to save me from expensive carpal tunnel surgery and therapy) is absent this third time around. The random cultural jokes are somewhat relevant, and fit nicely into the 'Star Wars' universe. Heck, if you're a big fan of 'Clerks,' and the whole Death Star/contractor death scene, an early moment will be quite a treat for you. Yes, there are jokes that backfire, and sure, there's still some pretty harsh language, but both are diminished incredibly, leaving 'Star Wars' related humor and the infamous non sequitur gags to thrive.
MacFarlane and his staff of writers claim in the crawl for this film to lower one's expectations, that they were out of gas, and running on fumes creating this installment solely due to studio pressure. Those poor, poor, rich men and women. Anyways, perhaps the lowered expectations from this crawl, and 'SSSDS,' helped make this film that much more enjoyable. The great gags outweigh the misfires considerably, and the knowledge of the series is put on constant display, not only in the skewering of scenes that just don't quite fit or live up to the series, but also in the way the film is packed wall to wall with the same background characters (that match up quite well!), cues, and just the perfect amount of original dialogue for the hardcore fans, even if some of the lines are given a new twist (and one line from The Emperor is one hell of a twist, despite being verbatim to the 'Return of the Jedi' scene.
I can't even begin to say how much I enjoyed the two stabs at the Special Edition 'Star Wars' re-re-releases, perhaps the greatest cameo in this "film" trilogy, one that should never, ever be spoiled (even if the chapter selection tabs for this disc spoil it, as well as a few other gags). Timing is top notch, as the bad jokes aren't lingered on, while some of the better ones drag on and on, intentionally drawing things out, stalling, in a sense. The two hibernation sickness gags are amazingly different, and both quite hilarious, the second of which lampoons one of the least believable moments in the film (great aim, blind guy!). The most aggravatingly stupid scene in the original film (C-3PO telling the 'Star Wars' tales to the Ewoks) turns into a perfect pop culture gag, turning a garbage moment into a pointless, but funny addition.
The ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi is still the funniest pedophile in the galaxy, and is wise beyond his years, particularly concerning the amount of women in the galaxy. The forest moon of Endor gags are great, particularly the twig snap parody and the innovative biker scout chase sequence, enough so to outweigh the really poor tacked on attempts at "humor" mixed in. Luke's turn to anger is handled well, even if it's overly self-aware, while the fates of both Darth Vader and The Emperor are both fitting and hilarious. I've never been a fan of Vader in 'Return of the Jedi,' as the galaxy's most evil bad ass turned into a sentimental bitch in the real film, but he's quite a jackass here, and his eventual death makes so much more sense than some lightning residue that somehow kills a man who had four limbs cut off and his penis most definitely singed and deemed useless, hence the massive codpiece to overcompensate.
I do have a pile of gripes this time around, though. First, the blood. Holy hell is 'It's A Trap!' bloody, way bloodier than any other entry in this series. The bits of stronger language still feel forced, like the show is trying to be edgy, and that much can be proven by the menstruation gag. The use of live-action cutaway gags all are failures, even if Darth Twitty's helmet matches his movements delightfully. Scenes don't mesh together, at all, with countless moments that exist solely to put in an extra gag or two that hardly is befitting a 'Star Wars' parody. The big reveal of this chapter in 'Star Wars' is lame in each and every reference, and it sucks in this film too (zing!). The "Meg is hideous, make her a hideous creature" gag wasn't funny the first two times, and it's still lame here (and the constant Joe recasting is annoying, even if this one is the best fit). Rush Limbaugh? Osama Bin Laden? Lame. Seriously.
'Family Guy' is still not that funny, as it tries way too hard and deserves to be canceled, even if that means we only have seven active MacFarlane universe Fox cartoons on air. The lack of effort at times seems to be beyond apparent, and 'South Park' said it best by saying a manatee in a tank full of random word balloons could write more coherent jokes. Still, I can't say no to anything 'Star Wars,' and I'm sure I'm not alone in that special nostalgia that will make me buy any video related to the epic film series. Not as good as the first, but vastly superior to the second, 'It's A Trap!' has the accuracy of a Clone Trooper or Rebel Soldier, like in 'Blue Harvest,' unlike the wild spray and pray mentality that curses Stormtroopers, Battle Droids, and 'SSSDS.'
The Disc: Vital Stats
Fox brings 'It's A Trap!' to Blu-ray on a Region A marked BD50 Dual Layer disc, housed in a two disc cut-out eco-case, housed in an attractive slipcover that matches the one for 'SSSDS' nicely. The pre-menu trailers are all skippable through the top menu button.
There are two ways to buy this film: by its lonesome, or in a trilogy three pack, titled 'Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy,' whose packaging imitates the DVD box set art. Funnily enough, the copy of 'It's A Trap!' in the box set doesn't mention the DVD of the film on its cover as the standalone edition does, despite being an identical release. The box set release doesn't contain slipcovers for any of the three films, and there is currently no way to get 'Blue Harvest' with a slipcover, or individually.
UK and Australia residents can buy this film in the trilogy or by its lonesome (with the requisite combo/combi pack DVD/Digital Copy), but also can buy a special edition that contains cards, a script, and a T-shirt. There does not appear to be any special packaging edition this time around, unlike the awesome lunchbox packaging found at Best Buy for 'SSSDS.'
The 1.78:1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode provided 'It's A Trap' is a bit annoying, constantly wearing its flaws like a badge of honor. Banding is absolutely all over the place, is hard to miss, and can overpower scenes, scary as that is. Backgrounds are severely affected, foregrounds (particularly Endor ground) are hit harder, though characters are affected a bit less (still, Brian/Chewbacca's nose area is awful ugly). As bright as the colors are, and as deep as the black is, the entire picture cannot get past this critical flaw. There are some fun textures in a few of the CGI craft, but the vehicles that aren't hand drawn suffer from some serious aliasing, particularly in their finer details. Cleveland/R2D2 never fits in with his hand drawn counterparts, has some wonky jagged lines, and is a horrible distraction. Ringing is fairly thick and hard to miss. When Brian/Chewbacca is on the AT-ST massacring Endor wildlife, there is a prolonged shot where the model is obviously scaled up, and becomes super blocky and choppy, despite the rest of the shot being clear. There was also a brief little black blob between Peter/Han Solo and Chewbacca when Ernie the Giant Chicken/Boba Fett lands on the skiff, but even that pales compared to the artifact in the 12:08 mark, where a vertical dashed line appears between Chris/Luke Skywalker and the front Weequay guard (or, if you're a nerd like me, right above Barada's right shoulder). While I won't hold the random SD footage thrown in (as the few shots in question are truly hilarious), this is one transfer that's stuck in the mud, and cannot get past its own feet, despite having great potential. Love the colors, but it's hard to be happy when the rest of the picture looks this bad.
The sole audio option for 'It's A Trap' is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that fails to impress, but has a few nice moments. Dialogue comes through clearly, but it never ventures outside of the front channels. Rears get plenty of score presence, but virtually nothing else, with only a few light bits of spacecraft movement and hardly any localization. Bass levels are actually much stronger than I anticipated, thumping beneath every word of Joe/Jabba the Hutt, giving a few random spikes mid-film, and lightly making space vehicle scenes have a bit more depth. Still, it's hard to not notice how there can be activity all over the screen, from all angles, and nothing coming from the rears, particularly in the Endor battle.
'It's A Trap!' is one of my favorite lines of dialogue in the entire 'Star Wars' series, especially since ol' squidfaced Admiral Ackbar states the obvious after the trap is more than apparent. It also may be my favorite entry in the 'Family Guy' parodies of the series. 'Blue Harvest' is the better film, but there's more fun to be had here, more skews and twists to the formula. This Blu-ray release is pedestrian, but still an improvement over DVD quality. I recommend this release, but for the few bucks more that the trilogy box set commands, I'd rather point people in that direction.