Family Guy: It's A Trap

Family Guy: It's A Trap

**

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

When the Griffins' television set breaks down, dad Peter (voiced by series creator Seth MacFarlane) keeps his family entertained by retelling an instalment of Empire-era Star Wars in a manner to which they can easily relate. This is how all the extended Family Guy parodies of the original Star Wars trilogy have been framed – but Family Guy's third Star Wars special shows signs of being afflicted by the same sort of franchise fatigue that had dragged down the specific target of its spoofery, the trilogy closer Return Of The Jedi (1983).

The instant the TV's fuse blows, baby Stewie asks nervously: "We're about to do Jedi, aren't we?" To which Peter responds: "Let's just get through this." This tone of resignation continues in the parody of Return Of The Jedi's introductory scroll, now declaring "We were thinking of not doing this one – Fox made us do it," and pleading with viewers: "Look, just do me a favour and lower your expectations, okay?" Before finally conceding: "On this one, we ran out of gas." Even the words "It's a trap!", uttered by fishy Rebel alien Admiral Ackbar in the original film, are here appropriated into the title as though to advertise the very thanklessness of the enterprise (just as tellingly, the working title was We Have A Bad Feeling About This). Where Family Guy: Blue Harvest (2007) and perhaps even Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side (2009) were labours of love, It's A Trap! feels as though it were born more out of contractual obligation and fan pressure.

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The results are more of the same, only worse, in full accordance with the law of diminishing returns. Once again all the characters of the Star Wars universe are 'played' by the familiar, animated residents of Quahog in an incongruous merger of MacFarlane's and George Lucas' rather different idioms - but the postmodern sensibility that this visits upon the 'galaxy far, far away' has long since lost the element of surprise.

In fact the biggest 'trap' here, as in previous instalments, is the Family Guy team's creative decision to enslave themselves to Lucas' original story arcs. These plots, with their fixed beginnings, middles and ends, impose an unwelcome order on an otherwise inherently chaotic comic style that is at its best when it can be more freewheeling. Robot Chicken's similarly anarchic Star Wars parodies are funnier precisely for their patchiness, with lampoons spanning individual scenes in no particular order rather than the narrative sweep of entire movies. It's A Trap! is unquestionably Family Guy's best-looking Star Wars special (and the first to be made in widescreen), but however exquisitely the look of Return Of The Jedi has been rendered in cartoon form, there are just too many lazy jokes about bodily functions and arbitrary pop-culture references to justify so lavish a reconstruction of the Star Wars world(s) – and by Family Guy's own often high standards, the gags here are pretty sub-par.

Certainly there is nowhere near enough humour that genuinely engages with the original source material. Rare exceptions - including jokes about how few women there are in Star Wars, how silly the creatures added to the 'Special Edition' are or how much better Return Of The Jedi might have been with darker themes to offset all the 'cutesy crap' of the Ewok scenes – also prove to be the piece's highlights. With a bit more of this, Return Of The Jedi might have received the sort of comic mauling for which it is so ripe. As it is, this is a missed opportunity, as disappointing as the film it so half-heartedly travesties. Let's just hope that MacFarlane and co. do not recklessly follow Lucas into the prequel trilogy. It's a trap.

Reviewed on: 31 Dec 2010
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Last in the trilogy of the animation's Star Wars specials.
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Stephen Carty **

Director: Peter Shin

Writer: David A Goodman, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Patrick Warburton, Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Dee Bradley Baker, H. Jon Benjamin, Adam West, Mike Henry, Arianna Huffington, Danny Smith, Nat Faxon, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Hathaway, Carrie Fisher

Year: 2010

Runtime: 55 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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