Robot Chicken has delighted geeky American 30-somethings since its 2005 inception on Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] programming block. Show creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich have mastered the art of taking something that was cool when you were a kid and making it hilariously funny for adults. They dig into the toybox of yesteryear, hack apart your most cherished childhood memories, and pad the in-between with glimpses into what it takes to make deranged lunatics laugh. Like tossing donuts at a naked guy. Yeah, if you laughed without having to think about it for too long, guess what? You're deranged too. But it's okay; you're among friends here. Robot Chicken took it up a notch with their release of an all-Star Wars parody sketch special in 2007, and Robot Chicken: Star Wars -- Episode II on DVD is a great follow up to the original.
This time, the sketches focus more on the “bad guys”, which equates to more screen-time for Emperor Palpatine (hilariously voiced by Seth MacFarlane) and a spotlight on bounty hunters. Breckin Meyer’s rendition of Boba Fett is priceless, full of all the false bravado one man can muster. The opening scene with Boba and his two new toys will remain one of my favorites for a good long while.
A decent amount of Robot Chicken’s comedy comes from placing iconic pop-culture characters in mundane day-to-day situations. The writers continue to use this tactic in Episode II: a Stormtrooper gets caught up in Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Palpatine loses his luggage at the airport and is forced to replace his clothing at the Death Star Gift Shop. All of this is presented in the traditional ADD Robot Chicken style, with clips of various lengths bookended by a field of static. Not much else can be said without ruining the jokes, but I have to leave you with my favorite quote of the entire show:
Darth Vader: [pointing to a suitcase on a luggage conveyor belt] Is that yours?
Emperor Palpatine: No! For the hundredth time, that's that same stupid black bag. Mine doesn’t have a stripe. It's like that stripey bag is mocking me... Fuck you, stripey bag.
Really, it's twice as funny when you hear Seth MacFarlane delivering that line.
While I still consider the first Robot Chicken: Star Wars more of a triumph in the world of Star Wars parody, Episode II has plenty of laughs and wit to stand on its own. For a show that is typically only 11 minutes long, with the broadcast Star Wars Special clocking in at twice that, fans would expect that a DVD release crammed with bonus features, and this DVD doesn't disappoint. It is rich with over 90 minutes of bonus material, however sometimes it seems that they were trying a little too hard to increase the number of things for you to scroll through with your remote.
There is a 38-minute extended version included, along with the original 22-minute broadcast version. The first bonus feature is of course commentary called “Chicken Nuggets,” but the implementation is fairly cool: you watch the show and hit enter on your remote whenever you see the chicken icon on screen, and you’re treated to a “nugget” of commentary. The bad news? This feature only works with the shorter broadcast version. I guess they felt compelled to give you at least ONE reason to actually watch the non-extended version.
The best of the bonus features include “The Making of RCSW II,” which has interviews with Green and Senreich, and lo and behold, they got a handful of the original cast members to reprise roles: Billy Dee Williams (Lando), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar), and Carrie Fisher (Leia, although she doesn't actually voice Leia in the show). Bonus if that's what you're into: Carrie Fisher, apparently nostalgic about her 18-year old perkiness of the first movie, isn't wearing a bra. You're welcome. The “Skywalker Ranch Premiere” also is worth watching, as George Lucas descends from on high to mingle with the common folk and give his blessing to RCSW II.
“Behind the Scenes: Sneak Peek” is where the bonus features begin to strain themselves. This material would have probably been better if it had been integrated into “The Making of RCSW II, as it actually repeats a few things from that segment and is more of the same behind-the-scenes type interviews. But where the bonus features really jump the shark is the “Deleted Animatics” featurette. Watching this gets you a couple of minutes of Seth Green telling you, “Surprise! There are no deleted animatics!” Seriously.
In the end, the bonus features seem more like a compensation tactic for the short runtime of the special -- here's your chance to insert all the clichéd short-penis jokes you'd like as a metaphor. If you're a real fan of the series, you know you were thinking it. However, the bonus material is still interesting enough to merit at least a glance after you're done wiping all the slobber off from laughing at the main feature.
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