Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story Review
Cast: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Mila Kunis, Seth Green, Drew Barrymore
Ever since Seth MacFarlane’s creation first burst onto our screens featuring the inspired animated exploits of the Griffin family, their neighbours and the New England town of Quahog in which they live there has been that rather boring debate over which is better: The Simpsons or Family Guy. I actually think that it’s too simplistic to say which is better. The superficial similarities of each cartoon series tend to make some viewers miss the fact that they have a totally different style, not to mention sense of humour.
Yes, The Simpsons is superior in several ways – it features a greater number of fully-rounded characters, but don’t forget that it has a team of writers working on every episode and it’s been going for over ten years, enough time to build up the complex layered world of Springfield that we all know and love. Each episode of the much younger Family Guy however, is edgier, more adult and has a higher gag rate than The Simpsons. It also goes places that The Simpsons would never dare to; every so often an episode of Family Guy will have something in it that is so much more clever, daring and hilarious than the best episode that Springfield’s finest has to offer.
At their best they can be as strong as each other but in different ways. The Simpsons is broader but Family Guy is more specifically reflecting creator MacFarlane’s (who also does most of the principal voices) love of American TV and desire to shock. I think a pretentious analogy would be thus: if The Simpsons is The Beatles, then Family Guy is The Rolling Stones. Or perhaps a more accurate one would be that if The Simpsons is Looney Tunes then Family Guy is Tex Avery at his best. Anyway, why the need for comparison? Can’t we just enjoy both of them?
While Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story is very entertaining and sporadically hilarious, it is not Family Guy at its best. In what is shamelessly three normal-length episodes loosely strung together into 90 minutes, the film benefits from not being constrained by the regulations of TV, but at the same time suffers from having a vague plot and too many in-jokes that could leave non fans feeling a little lost and annoyed.
In a nutshell the film tells the tale of how maniacal baby Stewie has a near-death experience on his first swimming lesson and is determined to make the most of his time on the planet and stop trying to achieve world domination and kill his mother Lois. His life takes an unexpected turn when he sees a man who is his spitting image on television. Deciding that this must be his real father Stewie enlists the help on the ever-inebriated family dog Brian and the pair go on a road trip to meet with this mysterious doppelganger.
Still, there is enough here to keep you entertained, particularly if you enjoy the TV series. All the fan-favourite characters are here, from the greased up naked deaf guy to obnoxious news anchor Tom Tucker, and as this film has not been made for TV broadcast, it can be even more outrageous and in places downright filthy, as well as very, very funny. Bugs Bunny dying horribly and seeing Ghandi doing stand up are two prime examples. However as the film trundles on happily, you can’t help but get the feeling that you are just watching three episodes that never made it into the cancelled third series and which have been rustled up as an appetite whetter before the series was resurrected due to massive DVD sales and came back on air for a fourth run in the States. If you’re a fan, I’d say buy it. If you aren’t a devoted disciple of the Family Griffin, borrow it off someone who is, but to be honest, you’d be better off borrowing the DVD of either the first or second series.
The highlight is definitely an audio commentary by Seth MacFarlane and several writers, revealing that much of the plotlines has indeed been floating around since series three (at least they’re honest) as well as a few interesting facts about the show. There are also animatics, galleries, storyboard comparisons and a few deleted scenes, but nothing particularly in depth or exciting. Again, good, but not what it could have been.
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