In general, I’m not the kind of girl who can spout obscure passages of dialogue from movies and TV shows. There are a few films that are embedded in my brain, most of them from before I was ten years old or so, when my brain was more plastic. Oh, and Family Guy.
Yep, Family Guy. I don’t quite know how it happened; I wouldn’t call Family Guy a guilty pleasure, but maybe an unlikely one. I’ve always been the “mature one,” and I’m pretty quiet and shy in person (for the first few minutes, anyway). But with Family Guy I embrace the most juvenile aspects of myself; the clever jokes are funny, but I howl with laughter during the explosive vomiting scenes.
Since I was raised on Star Wars and I love Family Guy, you can imagine I was keen to see the entire Laugh It Up, Fuzzball trilogy – the parody movies of the original Star Wars trilogy. Are you a Star Wars fan uncertain whether you’ll be lost in the Family Guy world, or vice versa? Here are my reviews of each film.
Blue Harvest is the parody version of A New Hope. “Wait, wait,” the Star Wars experts are saying. “Isn’t that a reference to Return of the Jedi?” Yep, it was – the writers didn’t anticipate making the entire trilogy, so they used the obscure reference right away.
You might say that’s something of a theme for Blue Harvest. The parody is clearly a labor of love, and you can almost feel the energy and excitement that must have been poured into it. Not only does it have the best title, it has most of the best material as well.
My favorite jokes in this trilogy are what I like to call the “I know, right?” jokes. They’re the ones that specifically point out something you always notice about the original movie – like the fact that the Cantina Band apparently knows only one song, or that the scene where Luke stares at Tatooine is pretty much there to showcase John Williams’ beautiful score.
Blue Harvest is chock-full of those moments. They also take the original dialogue and tweak it in such memorable ways that I think I can now quote the parody better than A New Hope, while still mostly keeping in the spirit of the original. The response they wrote for Leia’s “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” line might as well have been in the original – undoubtedly it’s rung through the minds of countless viewers over the years.
For Family Guy fans, sure, there’s an extra layer of funny context in the casting of the various roles, but it’s honestly just fine if you’re only familiar with Star Wars. I highly recommend this to any Star Wars fan, even the most casual – it’s just good, funny material.
Something, Something, Something, Dark Side
The sequel, a parody of The Empire Strikes Back, gamely attempts to take on the best-loved film of the original trilogy. Maybe the production team was feeling pressure from the success of the first film; maybe the looming Writer’s Strike added extra pressure too, but this one feels just a little more formulaic to me.
For one thing, there aren’t as many “I know, right?” moments. The moments it does have are absolutely dead-on, and don’t get me wrong, the entire film is still funny. However, the jokes are more funny for their own sake, instead of as many funny observations about the original film.
Dark Side features some of the most bizarre humor of the three films – a scene where Luke trains in the Dagobah system particularly stands out. It’s also probably the film with the most “inside jokes” for Family Guy viewers. A Star Wars fan unfamiliar with Family Guy would probably still enjoy this, but it would be better if they’ve seen Blue Harvest first.
It’s a Trap!
If I had to pick one word to sum up It’s a Trap!, it would probably be ‘exhaustion’. The word was probably planted in my brain from the opening crawl:
We were thinking of not even doing this one. Fox made us do it. When we did “Blue Harvest”, they said, “Oh, you guys are crazy.” They tried to talk us out of it, and it ended up making a ton of money. By then we were just finishing “Empire”, and we were absolutely exhausted. But Fox suddenly had dollar signs in their eyes [...] Look, just do me a huge favor and lower your expectations, okay? Just this one time. I promise I’ll make it up to you. I mean, “Star Wars”, fine. “Empire” - still not bad. But on this one we ran out of gas.
When I first watched the opening crawl, I was hoping it was just a joke to throw the viewer off, especially since I already thought Dark Side was a little phoned in. Alas, they weren’t really that far off.
They exhausted the jokes: whether it was an “I know, right?” moment or not, there were very few burst-out-laughing moments for me. One, an extended scene involving the execution ceremony and the Saarlac, is essentially a redo of a joke from Dark Side involving the Tauntaun. Another, involving a bag of cookies, doesn’t have anything to do with anything.
They exhausted the characters: early in the movie, they acknowledge they’ve run out of regular Family Guy characters to serve as ‘actors’; some roles are played by characters from American Dad! and The Cleveland Show. While I realize that they didn’t literally run out of characters seen in Family Guy, and they probably intentionally included the other characters, it doesn’t add anything to the film; now the casual viewer is expected to be familiar with three shows instead of one.
I don’t want to completely bash It’s a Trap! After all, it’s a Family Guy episode, and not even a bad one. When viewed as just another Family Guy episode, it ranks somewhere in the middle; compared to Blue Harvest, however, it’s hard not to be harsh.
Essentially, it’s a movie I will probably re-watch from time to time for completion’s sake, or maybe to mix it up, but it’s not a very good stand-alone film.
Oh hey, just like Return of the Jedi. If only I could believe that was the intended joke.
In short, if you’re a fan of Star Wars or Family Guy, Blue Harvest is a must-see. I’ll leave the others to your discretion, based on how the first parody is received.
I have to wonder if the sequels would have been better if they hadn’t been churned out on a set schedule. And while I have no interest in seeing the Star Wars prequel trilogy parodied, Blue Harvest was so good I’m interested in seeing a different movie parodied. Raiders of the Lost Ark, anyone?
What do you think? Am I way off base, biased against Ewoks and American Dad? What’s your favorite Fuzzball film?