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Family Guy: It’s A Trap!

Oh, we’re about to do Jedi, aren’t we?

Let’s just get through this.

– Stewie and Peter introduce the episode

And so we reach the end of the Family Guy Star Wars specials. It’s A Trap! is pretty much at an immediate disadvantage – the guys have already made two Star Wars specials, so a lot of the novelty is gone; not to mention the fact that Return of the Jedi is hardly a classic, fondly remembered in comparison to the prequel trilogy, but still nowhere near as good as the original two films. However, the production team acquit themselves admirably. When the episode works, it really works – there are some absolutely hilarious scenes in there. It’s not the most consistent piece of television you’ll see this year, but it’s damn entertaining, and made with a respect that shines through.

That's one bad dad...

I’m going to be entirely honest. Family Guy has been a bit hit-or-miss in recent years – maddeningly inconsistent not just in content (which, admittedly, it has always been) but in quality. The specials, however, have mostly managed to avoid falling into that trap, perhaps because rather than writing the continuing adventures of a Rhode Island family, the writers have a huge sandbox to play in.

There’s also the sense that the audience is built-in. The humour of the show is ridiculously scattershot, relying on an expansive knowledge of popular culture. However, these three movies are almost universal. Everyone knows the saga and the story – I’d be surprised if too many people reading this blog have managed to get through life without seeing one of the movies. The specials are able to work on the assumption that the people watching these specials know the material, and go from there.

These animated episodes have always been at their best when the humour has flowed from the backdrop, rather than the parent shows. We all know, for example, just how frustrating the Ewoks are – so it’s nice when a cast member has a breakdown over how they’ve undermined the sense of drama or the compelling sense of dread. “There’s enough cutesy crap in this movie,” Han remarks as he psychologically tortures an Imperial Officer, “I think we all need this.” The show mercilessly skewers the climax of the film, revelling in the ridiculous brutality of the cute little feral creatures, as we watch them brutally murder Imperial troops who are simply doing their jobs.

I would spit at it...

The humour is great, because it’s that kind of “now that I actually think about it” sort of stuff. Like, for example, the party at the end of the film – where the rebels cheer on the murders of thousands of people (which, as Clerks observed, were likely contractors just doing a job). It’s that sort of slightly twisted perspective which works so well – without veering too far into bad taste (as the series is prone to do, from time to time).

Of course there’s the randomness factor, which is a given on Family Guy. Some of these random cutaway moments work – for example, a cameo from Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, who spends the Battle of Endor enjoying tea – while some of them don’t quite work as well. I’ve always felt that the more irritating jokes in these specials are the ones that hinge on particular characters within the show, continuing running gags from the main series – some of which were just about funny the first time. Those are kept to a minimum here, and the show’s the stronger for it.

As well as the rather superb Endor sequences, the best parts of the episode focus on Vader and the Emperor, just chilling together. Confronting Luke and almost killing him, the Emperor is quite please with the result. “Are you using your brain?” Vader asks, astonished. “We’re lucky if we come out of this whole thing without a lawsuit!” It’s little bits like this which work well – because it’s fun to juxtapose the space opera family relations with real-world concerns and to see what might happen.

The animation continues to impress in these little specials. There are some moments where the computer-rendered rebel space craft do appear quite like polygons (especially the “bubbly one” – I’m not enough of a geek to know it by name, but you’ll know it when you see it). The animation is nice and crisp. I understand that Family Guy gets a lot of criticism from professionals for its simplistic art style, but I like it – I always have. Simplicity isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s A Trap! is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, and nice love-letter to the nerdy fans out there.

We’ve got reviews of the complete Star Wars Family Guy specials, if you want to check them out:

3 Responses

  1. Hey Darren, just wanna say great blogging and keep it up! 🙂

  2. I’ve been catching up on Family Guy online at DISHonline.com lately because I haven’t had the time to watch it on live TV. A benefit to being a DISH Network customer and employee is that I can watch thousands of titles for free at DISHOnline.com, this includes Family Guy. You can do it at http://bit.ly/dJzWgo.

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