(Yes, I know, I've been away awhile - luckily or unluckily, I've had some opportunities to work, and a big fund raising opportunity. So this is for those of you who missed reading new stuff on the blog)It's ironic that the Fox Network - owned by Rupert Murdoch, one of the most conservative businessmen on the planet - is often one of the most out-of-the-box in terms of content. The network also seems to hire executives with little judgment, cancelling shows only to have them later revived. Such is the case with two animated shows: Matt Groening's Futurama and Seth McFarlane's Family Guy, due solely to DVD sales. McFarlane received a new order for a further series and spin-off; Groening, with The Simpsons had to settle for made-for-DVD versions of Futurama.
Groening got the better deal - Bender's Big Score is a well-written, remarkably taut movie that resembles the best of old school Futurama. (Can I even say that?) It's incredibly hard to write about without giving spoilers, but let's just say it involves Internet scammers from the nude beach planet, time travel, and a very well-placed slap at Fox executives. (Not the ones in the home video department, according to the producers' commentary, but the ones at the network). There's even a twist that, on first viewing, I didn't see coming...and no, I won't spoil it for you. This movie is so good, that I wish I could afford to buy all my blogger and podcast pals a copy. It also wears its geekiness on its sleeve - let's face it, any DVD that features both a live comic book reading and a math lecture by a fan is real hardcore. More hardcore than MC Chris. But the best part of the DVD...is a complete episode with this character.
But Blue Harvest, aka "The Family Guy Star Wars Special"? A complete and utter waste of time. Wow, what an original idea - retell the movie with Family Guy characters. (Want to see it done right? Check out the Robot Chicken Star Wars Special. Sharper jokes, smarter writing...it's worth it. Trust me)
In its first three, pre-cancelation seasons, Family Guy seemed to be moving towards a heady mix of raunch and story. However, Blue Harvest reveals that Jamie Weinman (one of my my favorite bloggers) hits every flaw of the show right on the nose). Now, in his arrogance, McFarlane and his crew seem to rely on the same formulas of random cutaways and it-will-be-so-wacky obvious targets (A talking dog! Fart jokes! A baby who talks like Rik Mayall! Ironic voice cameos!) that, much like current South Park, doesn't even try anymore, content to just coast because - let's face it - McFarlane "won", and what's the worst that will happen? Another fan-based DVD drive to get a second "reboot". Sorry, Seth, but laziness is no substitute for humor.
For those of you who will post the "dude, you don't get it" comments, or tell me how wrong I am about Family Guy...Ok, I liked the hyperspace gag that led to this. But let's face it - Family Guy is about as cutting edge as Full House was in the 1980s. For McFarlane and his staff, Family Guy seems more like a job...but for the cast and crew of Bender's Big Score, it's a labor of love. And fortunately for them, it shows.
And to quote Bender, if you still disagree with me, you can bite my shiny metal ass. Or something.
Bender's Big Score: Highly Recommended.
Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest: Not Recommended