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20th Century Fox presents
Peter: Kids, your mother and I have decided to help you two get out in the dating world.
DVD ReviewSeth MacFarlane is really in the proverbial catbird seat, having seen his animated Fox series Family Guy cancelled and then resurrected based on largely on DVD sales of the season sets. It's almost like he can do what he wants, and the show's return to the airwaves has more than proven that MacFarlane (and his army of writers) have not softened the show's comedic approach one bit, continuing to regularly lob out the kind of edgy and daring humor and sight gags rarely seen on network television.
Family Guy takes place in the fictitious town of Quahog, Rhode Island, and centers around the functionally dysfunctional Griffin family: Peter (voiced by MacFarlane), he of the testicle-shaped chin, is the rotund head-of-the-household; Lois (voiced by Mad TV's Alex Borstein) is Peter's wife and often times is the only sane voice to be heard above the weirdness, though here she gets a little kinkier; their two teenage children, Chris (voiced by Seth Green), the introverted artist wannabe and Meg (voiced by Mila Kunis), the lonely president of the Quahog chapter of the Luke Perry Fan Club. Stewie (also voiced by MacFarlane) is the Griffin's one-year-old son, and he is constantly plotting violent upheaval. Lastly, the Griffin household is completed by Brian the dog (MacFarlane again), a martini-sipping alum of Brown University who, like Stewie, can talk.
For the straight-to-DVD Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, MacFarlane and team have strung together three separate but brand new episodes, linked by sometimes tenuous strands, into an 88-minute "film" that tries to tell a cohesive story, but those familiar with the series know that bizarre tangents are often the heart of the writing. Stewie Griffin is the thread that connects the dots here, as he attempts to adopt a new, much friendlier personality (Stewie B. Goode), and then sets off on an ill-fated road trip with Brian and Quagmire (Bango Was His Name Oh) to San Francisco to find a man who Stewie believes is his real father (Stu and Stewie's Excellent Adventure).
The disc bookends with some great red carpet footage of the premiere of the film, most memorable for offering a very drunk Lois trying to initiate some doggy-style lovemaking in front of the shocked crowd, and there is the usual assault of strange sight gags and "that was like the time" moments that make Family Guy so indelibly unpredictable. Things like a very violent and hilarious Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd bit or the visual of Peter keeping Lara Flynn Boyle warm under his protruding belly are examples of the kind of bizarre and funny humor that has made this so popular.
The plots for the series have never been much more than extremely loose skeletons on which boundary pushing comedic asides are hung upon, and that remains true here, but it doesn't prevent it from being really, really funny. Plain and simple, if you like the show, this one will deliver what you're used to, and though these will eventually air on Fox as separate episodes, I find it hard to believe they will intact, as seen here.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: This one has been issued in 1.33:1 full frame, and it appears to be a moderate improvement over the Volume 1 release, with a noticeable absence of those pesky jagged edges that peppered that particular set. Colors look bright, and though the animation is not overly detailed, the level of clarity and sharpness is quite presentable.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: There are a pair of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks, though both are the same with the exception of one being an "uncensored" version, where the handful of "f***s" (and its derivations) are not bleeped.
The 5.1 mix would seem like a step up from the previous 2.0 tracks found on other Family Guy releases, and while I appreciate the offer, the presentation isn't really much a significant advancement. It's not a bad thing, though, because dialogue is clear and the music bed comes across very pleasant and full. Not really any use of the rear channels to speak of, and there are some moderate directional pans evident, but modest at best.
Clean and crisp, but not much in the way of anything overtly special.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring American Dad, Family Guy Volume 3
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Seth MacFarlane, David Goodman, Chris Sheridan, Pete Michels, Seth Green, Alex Borstein, Mila Kunis
Extras Review: Fans should dig the new commentary track from writer/creator Seth McFarlane, producer David Goodman, producer Chris Sheridan, director Pete Michels, and the late arrivals of cast members Seth Green, Alex Borstein, and Mila Kunis. The track covers the full gamut of the so-called "three part adventure," and how the various episodes were written (and when), and then specially linked together to create a full-length film. For such a crowded track, it is remarkably sedate and informative, with far less in-joke snickering and giggling that I anticipated, with MacFarlane pointing out odd bits like the inconsistencies of Quagmire's haircut during the second part (a result of that scene having been originally done for an earlier Family Guy episode).
Unfortunately the other listed extras were not part of my screener copy, but the menu promises Animatic Comparisons of the scenes Red Carpet Ceremony and Road Trip/Dating Education, as well as previews of Family Guy 3 and American Dad.
The disc is cut into 28 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsMaybe not a blind buy for those unfamiliar with the show, but for fans this is required purchase. The problems of having too much of a good thing is negated by the fact that this is essentially three separate episodes loosely strung together. Plenty of solid laughs (and more than a few that wonderfully push the edge), plus the option of an uncensored audio track gives this the feel of something that can never air on Fox as is.
This has been available as an Internet download for quite a while, but with the formal release fans get a nicely crafted commentary from MacFarlane and a host of others.
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