The way 'Family Guy' would constantly make nods and references to one of the most famous and recognizable film series in history, it was only a matter of time before Seth MacFarlane's baby took the franchise it regularly spoofs on in an entirely different way. Named after the fake production name for 'Return of the Jedi,' this hour long, Emmy-nominated season six premiere coincided with the 30th anniversary of 'Star Wars,' as if anyone need an excuse to put an extremely popular cartoon's library of characters in 'Star Wars' attire. This home video release, much like the DVD before it, is an extended cut of the show, featuring content that was not included in the broadcast debut, and features an uncensored audio track, for those of you who really thought the films would have been better with a few more f-bombs.
When the power goes out one Sunday night, the Griffin family decides it's time to tell a story, and not just any story, as Peter shares his vision of 'Star Wars.' Young Luke Skywalker (Chris) is led on a journey by C-3PO (Quagmire) and R2-D2 (Cleveland) to seek out the hermit Obi-Wan Kenobi (the pedophile Herman), who is to free the captive Princess Leia (Lois) from the clutches of Darth Vader (Stewie) and the rest of the Imperial forces. With Han Solo (Peter) and his trusty companion Chewbacca (Brian) on board for the journey, the adventurers face great danger and suffer greater tragedies as they attempt to stop the nefarious Death Star from blowing up the Rebel base on the fourth moon of the planet Yavin.
'Family Guy presents Blue Harvest' is an...interesting take on 'Star Wars,' for better or worse. Fairly uninspired and already very dated by of-the-moment pop culture gags, the story skips and hops along the road we've traveled many times before, sometimes playing it straight, sometimes taking a winding, bizarre path. Aside from some bizarre character amalgamations (a mother and son playing siblings and a child playing his mother's father being key amongst the odd choices), there are some honestly good choices on who to combine, as the Chris and Herman sequences are by far the highlight of the show, stealing every scene with that hidden lewdness one would never have thought old Ben Kenobi capable of. The use of the Dianoga creature to portray a major character in the 'Family Guy' canon was also a nice, unexpected touch.
On the bright side, when 'Blue Harvest' works, it really works. Most of the best gags involve the tertiary 'Star Wars' characters like Figrin D'an, Watto, Dr. Evazan, Ponda Baba, and even the obese X-Wing pilot Porkins, while the common characters don't get the fun little freaky cameos that completely annihilate a character. The "womp rat" references, due to their use as a unit of measure and other, meaner things, are great fun, as riffs of peculiar dialogue in the film that never really got a good explanation are regularly found, regularly "out funnying" the larger set pieces. Minor plot holes and inconsistencies are blasted all to hell, as the majority of the gags are aimed solely at the 'Star Wars' fanatic who knows every word and gesture of the iconic, cinema changing picture.
Sadly, 'Blue Harvest' can really stink when it wants to. Plenty of time is lost to horribly unfunny jokes, ones that sometimes repeat in an attempt to get a better payoff but just drag out the misery. From a Grey Poupon commercial featuring the lovable, stinky little Jawas, to a cutaway to "Let's Make a Deal," there's no shortage of missed opportunities or mind numbing failures that all but clinch the first 'Robot Chicken' 'Star Wars' special as the superior of the two riffs. While humor is entirely subjective, and the bits I find particularly poor may be some viewers' favorite moments, I could't help but cringe numerous times during any repeat viewing of this special, all but readying my finger over the fast forward button on occasion in an attempt to remove some of the awfulness.
'Star Wars' has been parodied before, and will be for as long as we're all alive. It's almost universal, and as such is rife for the picking. The combination of arguably the most popular animated series on television and the most popular franchise in cinema is clearly a no-brainer, but often times this special seems like it were written by someone suffering that very same malady. Almost equally obnoxious as it is hilarious, it's a rather two-toned affair, a bit inconsistent and sometimes rather bumbling in the way it skips, leaps, and bounds through the film with no attempt to really tell a story, other than highlighting key scenes along the way. I suppose my memories of this show have been dashed by the appearance of the "suck fairy." That, or this particular adaptation really falls flat on its face with repeat viewings.
The Disc: Vital Stats
When 'Family Guy presents Blue Harvest' was first released on home video, there were a couple of DVD sets for consumers to choose from. The next two features would bow on both Blu-ray and DVD day and date, and when 'It's a Trap!' was released on Blu-ray, Fox finally put out the solid selling 'Blue Harvest' on Blu-ray...though only in the 'Laugh it up, Fuzzball' box set, leaving buyers of the 'The Empire Strikes Back' clone 'Something, Something, Something, Dark Side' to double-dip or wait...until now. Almost two years later, Fox has finally made 'Blue Harvest' available as a standalone disc.
For those who already bought the box set: this disc is exactly the same, leaving no reason to pick up this release. It's identical to the point that putting in the new disc will prompt the "resume playback" feature from my machine's memory of the previous disc. That makes it a lot more obvious. The only notable differences are the fact that the artwork now includes a UPC code, and because of that, there's some minor repositioning of text and artwork on the back of the packaging, and the numbering system on the bottom of the disc is changed, which happens often over the life of a release. The disc is still a Region A marked BD50, featuring the same menu navigation and technical specifications. There's still a disc based Digital Copy, and the same pile of extras. There is no slipcover for this release...oh darn.
1080p, AVC MPEG-4, 1.33:1. Basic, simple, obvious. What's surprising, though, is how entirely poor 'Blue Harvest' looks on Blu-ray, and the reason why is clear: upconverted SD content. If one discounts the fact that every single wipe (the effect used frequently in 'Star Wars' films, where the picture becomes the next scene from one side to the other) creates massive jaggedness for a few seconds, the way that every single CG element has extreme shimmering issues, or the way that aliasing is ever present, with constant jagged outlines in characters and settings, including shots with the entire background consisting of stair step nightmares (and that's a lot of discounting to do!), the picture is still a failure due to the fact that artifacts are occasionally visible (most particularly in the table at the Death Star meeting room with the infamous force choke), banding pops up from time to time in impossible to miss ways (particularly in the shadows beneath the first shot of the Millennium Falcon or the floor in the viewing window before Aldaraan goes boom!), and the fact that motion brings every single element of the show to a grinding, hideous halt due to how distracting it looks. Colors are strong, but the fact that the stars in the sky before the first starship shot ghost like a son of a bitch when the camera pans down leaves a very strong impression: do not expect the world. It's no wonder this disc was not rushed out for standalone release.
The audio on 'Blue Harvest' is a winner, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. If you like your dialogue crisp and sharp, your score buoyant and powerful with full room presence, your effects powerful and engaging, it's hard to dislike this track. Bass levels are solid, from the light rumble in the opening crawl, to the massive roar of the Star Destroyer chasing the Tantive IV in the opening 'Star Wars' shot, with plenty of little spikes along the way. Vehicles move through the room nicely, as does dialogue in a few very surprising and welcome scenes. Lightsabers sound as good as they do in 'A New Hope,' even if the score isn't as powerful or crisp sounding. This track isn't entirely enveloping, but for a TV show release of a cartoon from four or five years ago, it still kicks the crap out of the competition from the era.
Every disc based extra from the DVD release is found on this Blu-ray. The trinkets in the limited edition are gone.
'Family Guy presents Blue Harvest' spearheaded and kick-started the recent craze of remaking 'Star Wars,' often with little change. It's not the best adaptation or parody, as it's a bit of a jumbled mess with little continuity or flow from scene to scene. It's just a hodgepodge. This Blu-ray release features solid as heck audio, but the video is an SD upconvert that fails quite miserably. If you bought the box set, there's no reason to get this standalone. If you've been waiting patiently, the time is nigh to pick this one up. I doubt there's much middle ground between those two types of prospective customers.