In 10 Words or Less
Three "Family Guy" episodes make for an overlong movie
Loves: "Family Guy", animation
Hates: Unnecessary direct-to-DVD animated sequels
The Story So Far...
"Family Guy" is the animated story of Peter, a sitcom father in the mold of Homer Simpson, though much stupider and much less caring, and his clan of strange Rhode Island natives. His wife Lois is the only thing holding the family together, while the kids, Chris, Meg and Stewie get in more than their share of trouble. Of course, Brian, the family dog, views the whole thing with detached humor as he sips his martinis. The show has one of the most unique stories in TV history, as the show was cancelled and then brought back thanks to overwhelming DVD sales.
This DVD marks the fourth home video release for the show. The first three seasons have been released in two box sets, while a collection of series creator Seth MacFarlane's favorite episodes received a one-disc edition. DVDTalk has reviews of all three previous sets:
Volume One | Volume Two
Family Guy - The Freakin' Sweet Collection: Francis Rizzo | Aaron Beierle
Has extending a television show ever been a good idea? When you take a group of creators who have a great feel for a show in its original form, and then have them attempt to extend it to three times the length, often the pacing suffers. Worse than that, the characters might not be able to carry a longer version and still be interesting.
"Family Guy" was certainly not the best choice for what is essentially an overlong episode, and which will be shown as three episodes on TV. The concept of the show, a short sitcom plot punctuated by flashbacks and asides, is hard to carry out over 88 minutes. Add to it a wraparound bit set at the "film"'s premiere, that has the characters as actors playing themselves, and the whole thing feels like a premise stretched well beyond its limits.
The plot at the center of the story focuses on Stewie, the baby of the family. Feeling like he's not a part of the family, he sees a man on TV who looks exactly like him in California. Feeling that he must be his father, as he couldn't possibly be Peter's offspring, he decides to travel to California from Rhode Island to find this man. Thankfully, the film is not an extended road trip, as they already did that gag in the episode "Road to Rhode Island."
Instead (and I hope to not give away anything by saying this), the show takes a road trip to another time period. As is often the case with sitcoms and time travel, the characters are all shown in their alternate universe versions, which is cute, especially since one character is portrayed in an entirely different manner than you would expect.
To say much more about the plot would give away more than I would want to, as the storyline is moderately interesting, even if it is stretched thin. I will say that this movie features a series of scenes that were beyond disturbing, as Peter and Lois attempt to teach Chris and Meg how to date. The amount of incest jokes on this DVD is likely record-worthy. It definitely holds the record for pedophilia jokes involving Steve Allen.
Though the packaging claims that this disc is outrageous and uncensored, and the incest gags would indicate that it is, it still feels as though they are holding back, since these collected episodes were made to air on TV, in a modified version. There is cursing, but it is limited to an alternate audio track, as the subtitles reflect the censored soundtrack. Anyone hoping for a "Family Guy" that's completely cut loose might find themselves a bit disappointed.
If you are looking for those infamously funny cutaway jokes though, expect them by the ton, and most are rather funny, including one with Peter as Richard Dawson on "Family Feud" and another with a commercial for one of the most useless business ventures ever. The use of the show's off-kilter sense of humor in these bits is the main thing that keeps the episodes moving.
All the stops were pulled out when it comes to voice talent for this movie, as the cast is stacked with celebrities. Along with series regulars like Patrick Warburton and Adam West, this movie features Drew Barrymore, Ron Livingston, Michael Clarke Duncan, Joy Behar and most of the cast of "Beverly Hills, 90210." As the show includes a large amount of pop-culture jokes, often impersonations are used, so it's adds another angle to the movie to figure out who is really the person they say they are.
It will be interesting to see what these episodes will be like when they are aired individually, and whether they will be improved by being shown at their traditional length. Including the "premiere" wraparound material, which is the least interesting part of the film, with the exception of Lois' behavior, a guest primate and a hilarious, nonsensical cameo, there's quite a bit of filler in this show. There's even an animation-less intermission that's perked up a bit with some verbal jokes. According to the commentary (see The Extras), the film had to be a certain length contractually. If only the contract had required a minimum amount of comedy.
This 88-minute film arrives on one DVD, packed in a standard keepcase. The disc features an animates, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to view the film, adjust the languages, view special features and select scenes. The rest of the menus are static, but are based around the premiere concept, with new art and animated transitions. The scene selection menus have still previews and titles for each chapter. The soundtrack is available in two flavors of English 5.1, censored and uncensored, while the subtitles are in English, Spanish and French. Closed captioning is also available.
The full-frame animation looks better than any "Family Guy" episode I've ever seen on DVD, with beautiful, bright color and strong lines. The problems with jagged thin lines are much less prevalent than they were on previous releases, and the color is more consistent across large areas. It's probably due mostly to improved animation techniques, but either way, this film looks very good, despite a bitrate that averages a mid-range 5Mbps.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, which is a leap for a show that's been presented in 2.0 up to this point. The mix isn't very dynamic, with no audio effects, though some of the background sound and music makes it to the surrounds occasionally. I get the feeling that a 2.0 track would have been fine, but the effort is appreciated.
The main extra is a feature-length audio commentary with MacFarlane and some of the cast and writers, including Seth Green, Alex Borstein and Mila Kunis. The track takes a bit to get going, as the cast doesn't join in until the second part of the movie, but when they do, the joking increases, including a funny bit about Kunis and Britney Spears. Mistakes and pop-culture references are pointed out, production information is shared and filler is shamelessly labeled as such.
The disc also has an animatics comparison, a preview of "Family Guy" Volume 3, and an "American Dad" preview. At least, it says it does. When choosing those items though, one finds that Fox has removed them from the screener copies, replacing them with a message saying "This feature available only on consumer version." Is this the DVD version of not screening an awful movie for reviewers?
The Bottom Line
Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? Maybe so. We'll find out when these episodes air individually. But right now, this movie feels too stretched out, without the machine-gun laughs a usual episode of "Family Guy" provides. The presentation is very nice, though judgment will need to be reserved regarding the extras that were denied to us. Fans of the show might want to wait on this one in terms of a purchase, as the episodes are likely to end up in a collection at some point, but they'll want to do a rental, as some of this stuff will never been seen on TV.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.