Family Guy: It's a Trap!
Family Guy: Blue Harvest
Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark S
Robot Chicken: Star Wars - Episode III
If Blue Harvest served as Family Guy’s love letter to A New Hope, then It’s a Trap! is a “Dear John” to Return of the Jedi. From the rant-filled opening scroll asking the audience to lower their expectations, to the countless jabs at the source film in question, it’s obvious that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is not fond of Return of the Jedi. MacFarlane’s brand of humor often walks a fine line between telling the spiteful truth and just ruffling feathers, but I am inclined to believe him when he reveals in the text scroll at the start of the film, “Fox made us do it,” and that the writers have “run out of gas.” It’s a Trap! delivers a few satisfying laughs, but the humor feels more like a thinly veiled disguise that’s thrown over MacFarlane’s disdain for the project.
Like Family Guy’s previous two Star Wars parodies did with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Family Guy: It’s a Trap! recreates Return of the Jedi using characters from the Family Guy universe. Although it has normally been fun to see which characters will pop up in each of the famous Star Wars roles, the “run out of gas” mantra carries itself over to the casting as well, resulting in a few of MacFarlane’s other creations subbing in. Appearances from Klaus and Roger from American Dad and Rallo and Tim the Bear from The Cleveland Show cause Darth Vader (Stewie) to rightfully ask, “Are we already out of our own characters?” Here I thought Something, Something, Something Dark Side was being elitist in its self-referencing, but It’s a Trap! demands that you have seen all of MacFarlane’s shows.
All these in-jokes get to be too much after a while, most notably when the epic battle between Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker (Chris Griffin), and The Emperor (Carter Pewterschmidt) becomes dominated by a conversation about actor Seth Green. This fight is the emotional epicenter of Return of the Jedi, but here it’s given a carried-over joke from the end of Blue Harvest, where Peter and Chris discuss the merits of Green’s Robot Chicken. Of course the joke here is that Green does the voice of Chris, who is placed in the role of Luke, thus resulting in Luke’s anger toward Vader and The Emperor for making fun of Green, but even having that knowledge going into the scene doesn’t make it any more tolerable since the joke had already run its course in Blue Harvest.
Similarly, after the episode concludes, the family discusses whether Green or MacFarlane is more hated, and naturally, those characters voiced by MacFarlane (Brian, Stewie, and Peter) are in his favor. Do these discussions really merit precedence in an episode that should be honoring Star Wars?
Perhaps Jedi does not have enough to honor in MacFarlane and his writers’ minds. Much of the battle on Endor is filled with snide remarks about the out-of-place content of Jedi. Leia (Lois) even states at one point, “I know, it’s not as good as Empire.” As opposed to the previous Family Guy riffs on Star Wars, parodying Jedi becomes less of a focus than outright critiquing its shortcomings. During one strangely out-of-place scene in which Han Solo (Peter) forces some Imperials to dig their own graves, he yells at Leia, “Shut up! There’s enough cutesy crap in this movie. I think we all need this.” Part of what made Blue Harvest and Something, Something, Something Dark Side great parodies was McFarlane’s clear love for the source material. Here he’s replaced that attribute with loathing.
It’s a Trap! is best enjoyed for its lighter, sillier bits. There’s a great deal of fun to be had at the expense of Jabba the Hutt (Joe Swanson)’s mumbled dialogue. Instead of the usual Huttese, Jabba mutters things like, “Mila Kunis,” and the lyrics to “Lady Marmalade.” I was also pleased with Meg’s appearance as the Sarlacc, and Family Guy’s laughing ostrich making a two-second cameo at Jabba’s side was as appreciated as it was unexpected. Carrie Fisher lends her voice to Mon Mothma briefing the Alliance, and there’s a witty exchange where Han Solo comments on there being another female in the galaxy and Leia replies, “I don’t like her.” It’s a Trap! contains a lot of the same kind of material as the previous parodies, and while it lacks the respect that went into the first or second entry, it still had me laughing more than once.
Still, even at its best, It’s a Trap! never reaches the fun of the three Family Guy parodies, much like Return of the Jedi is typically considered the weakest installment of the original Star Wars trilogy. Except, while George Lucas aimed to bring his galactic tale to an appropriate end, the writers of It’s a Trap! seem to just want to get it over with. The heart that went in to Blue Harvest and Something, Something, Something Dark Side is glaringly absent here. I shudder to think what would happen if MacFarlane was forced to do a Family Guy version of the prequel trilogy.