Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubeman

Now that I've gotten your attention with my wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman antics, I think it's extremely apropos that the wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman - the ultimate expression of "Look at me! Check ME Out!" - is introducing my momentous 100th post! Woohoo! So, look at me, check ME out! 100 posts! Yay! I'm really excited and extremely proud. This is such a huge deal for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading! I mean that from the bottom of my heart. This blog has been so rewarding. I'm not going anywhere (200 posts, I'm coming to get you), so I hope you don't either. Please keep reading - I really appreciate your support. So, it's time to par-tay! And honestly, what better way to celebrate this occasion than with a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman?

Actually, all wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman shenanigans aside, I really am doing something with this post. This a review of the straight-to-DVD Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story. I know it might seem random, but I had a plan all along. The wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman is featured in one of the movie's many non-sequitur-y cut-aways. These cut-aways, usually preceded by a "It's just like the time I..." or "Remember when...", are a major part of Family Guy's success. They're a staple of the show, and the movie is no different. That's what I love about Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story - it doesn't mess with a time-tested, perfect formula. Even if the episodes, stories, or jokes aren't always perfect (and trust me, they're aren't - the show is not infallible), the formula IS. This movie stays true to the spirit of the show and doesn't try to be anything else.

That being said, I think that's also one of the movie's flaws, if that makes any sense. It almost stays TOO close to the show. I'm not asking for something as grandiose as The Simpsons Movie (which I didn't like very much), but when you have the opportunity to go, pardon the expression, balls-out on an uncensored straight-to-DVD movie, you should come out with all guns blazing. Family Guy has always pushed the envelope with its offensive, scathing brilliance, but I was slightly disappointed that they didn't push it more with this movie. It's a bit safe, which is something I never thought I'd say about Family Guy. The movie does stick with the formula, which I appreciate as a loyal fan, but I don't think it does anything special with the formula to make it stand out from any regular episode. Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story is basically three episodes rolled into one and extended, stretched even, to 88 minutes. So help me, I wanted more vulgarity and debauchery from my favorite cartoon family.

The DVD came out first, and then they actually did chop it up into three separate episodes for a three-part season four finale, which is why the movie feels just like a really long episode. It is. The three episodes are entitled "Stewie B. Goode," "Bango Was His Name Oh!", and "Stu and Stewie's Excellent Adventure." I saw the three episodes separately first. They function really well as individual installments. The holding-back on the movie makes sense if you look at it in the context of them expecting to split it three ways. They didn't want to wrestle with having to change too much to appease censors. Whatever. The movie is still disappointing in its lack of chutzpah. Anyway, when I watched the movie, I was surprised at how seamlessly the three parts flowed together. So, they did a really good job in that respect. There's obviously some big chunks removed for TV, and whatever couldn't be removed was altered to make it Fox-friendly. The TV version even has a couple additions, such as a 24-style opening on the third episode voiced by none other than Jack Bauer himself, Kiefer Sutherland. The biggest additions to the movie are at the beginning and end. Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story plays out even more self-referentially than usual, with the Griffins actually walking the red carpet for the premiere of this very film at the beginning and having an after-party at the end, discussing what they did during the cancellation break for work and also taking some pointed jabs AT the cancellation. I really liked both of these parts.

To briefly summarize the plot, baby Stewie has a near-death experience at a swimming pool, sees a man on TV who looks exactly like him, assumes that he must be his real father, and goes looking for him. Wow, I didn't think I could be so succinct with my description. I don't want to give away what happens with the Stewie-lookalike mystery man, so I'll let you discover that. The movie has a subplot with Peter and Lois, frustrated from never getting any alone time, trying to get Chris and Meg out of the house by giving them dating lessons. Peter has Meg shave his back and traps her in the car while he farts, telling her to "love the gas." These are the most romantic things a girl can do for a guy, after all. Lois utilizes electro-shock therapy to get Chris to remember the names of the characters on Sex and the City. It's a lot of fun. Overall, the script is really tight and well-written. It's a neat, compelling plot. And Stewie's story is great, but I think the movie falls apart in the third act, or the third episode. I just didn't care for it very much. The movie is also just too long. Other than that, it's hilarious (I laughed out loud a lot), the gags are fantastic, and most of the cutaways are priceless, as usual. Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story is a worthwhile endeavor.

Some highlights include Peter's short-lived segment on the news ("You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?"), Ollie Williams (one of my favorite supporting characters) promoting Adopt-a-Pet, a spoof of Wilfred Brimley's diabetes commercials, Walt Disney coming back to life after being frozen, asking if the Jews were gone yet, finding out that they weren't, and asking to be re-frozen, post-near-death experience Stewie being nice, drunk Stewie, and, of course, a cheesy commercial for wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubemen.

I think the tubeman bit is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Just check this out, and imagine it being delivered with lightning-fast, Howard Hawks-like speed: "Hi, I'm Al Harrington, President and CEO of Al Harrington's Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man Emporium and Warehouse! Thanks to a shipping error I am now overstocked on wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men, and I am passing the savings on to *you*! Attract customers to your business, make a splash at your next presentation, keep grandma company, protect your crops, confuse your neighbours! African American? Hail a cab, testify in church or just raise the roof! Whatever your wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man needs, come on down to Al Harrington's Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man Emporium and Warehouse, route two in Weekapaug!" Classic.

Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story is really, really good, with lots of great moments, but it's not quite great overall. I forgive Seth MacFarlane and company, though. Family Guy, the series, is so genius that it hardly matters. Don't get me wrong, the movie is still well worth checking out, but they've done much better, and so consistently that it's astonishing. I have a confession... I've recently decided that I prefer Family Guy to The Simpsons. Gasp. And I LOVE The Simspsons, so this is big. I grew up with it and can quote whole episodes. This is a really major conclusion, akin to an epiphany. It's huge for me to admit it. But it's true - I love Family Guy more. By the way, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story is vastly superior to The Simpsons Movie. Sorry, maybe that's a cheap shot, but so be it.

I still adore The Simpsons (that'll never change), but for me, few shows compare to the excellence of Family Guy, and certainly no other animated show does. In fact, I don't think any TV show has ever brought me more gut-busting, glorious, soul-healing laughter, sheer joy, and blissful entertainment than Family Guy.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

1 comment:

Bill Treadway said...
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