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Reviewed by Will Harris
here are a lot of animated series in production nowadays that possess wickedly creative sensibilities, but few can match the look of “Robot Chicken,” with its stop-motion animation of dolls and action figures recreating icons from across the pop culture universe. Better yet, the show’s co-creator, Seth Green, is such a nice guy and knows so many people in the industry that he’s notorious for being able to coax people to play themselves or to voice characters that they’ve played in the past, such as Sarah Michelle Gellar reprising Buffy Summers or Joey Fatone from ‘N Sync avenging his murdered bandmates in a martial arts tournament. With “Robot Chicken: Star Wars,” Green might not have been able to bring in Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher, but he did talk George Lucas into voicing himself, then having Lucas ride on the back of a rabid “Star Wars” fan dressed as a tauntaun. So, y’know, that’s something, anyway.
“Robot Chicken: Star Wars” follows the same format as the show proper, bouncing back and forth between rapid-fire jokes that play out within a few seconds and full-length sketches. There’s a pair of great commercial parodies: one for “Max Rebo’s Greatest Hits” (which emphasizes that, all resemblances aside, he’s not an elephant, dammit!), the other for Admiral Ackbar Cereal, featuring a tastebud-tempting mixture of marshmallows and imitation crab meat. ("Your tongues can't repel flavor of that magnitude!”) Of the longer sketches, highlights include the rarely-remembered reunion between Anakin Skywalker and Jar-Jar Binks after the former became Darth Vader, the sad tale of Walrus Man’s life before and after he entered the cantina on Tatooine, the glorious “Empire on Ice,” and the geeky but funny bliss of a “Yo Mama” fight between Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine.
The producers couldn’t resist recycling a trio of “Star Wars”-themed sketches from previous “Robot Chicken” episodes, but you can’t really blame them, since this show probably brought in a lot of first-time viewers who’d never seen them before. Plus, two of them are full fledged classics, anyway: “Darth Vader’s Collect Call,” where Emperor Palpatine learns of the destruction of the Death Star ("That thing wasn't even fully paid off yet!"), and “’The Empire Strikes Back’ Spoilers,” in which the “Luke, I am your father” scene devolves into Vader revealing to Luke – who’s actually voiced by Mark Hamill here – that he built C3PO and that the Ewoks will beat the Empire. The third sketch, however, involves George W. Bush having a high midichlorian count and gaining Jedi powers, and although it’s funny, the fact that it takes place completely outside of the “Star Wars” universe makes it feel totally out of place here.
Yes, “Family Guy” paid tribute to “Star Wars,” too – they even made fun of the fact that “Robot Chicken” beat them to the punch, since Green’s a cast member of both series – but given the amount of laughs found in “Robot Chicken: Star Wars,” it will be no struggle to find room for both DVDs in your collection.
Special Features: This is definitely a DVD where the special features kick it up a ratings notch. Green packed it to the gills, more than making up for the fact that the special itself lasts for a mere 22 minutes. There are no less than seven audio commentaries: two for the actors, two for the writers, two for the crew, and perhaps most interestingly, one from George Lucas’s children, Jett and Katie Lucas, where they talk about their personal experiences with “Star Wars.” “Chicken Nuggets” causes a chicken icon to appear on the screen, and if you click the appropriate button on your remote when it does, you get Green and co-writer Matthew Senreich offering details about each sketch. There’s film from Green’s animation meeting, a panel presentation for the show, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, trailers and on-air pumps…whew! In short, no “Robot Chicken” fan will leave this disc disappointed.