Out of the small animation boom that happened a couple of years ago (see also "Futurama", "Clerks", "Dilbert" and a couple of WB animated shows I can't remember the names of) came "Family Guy", one of the most hilarious and controversial shows that Fox has aired. A mixture of "The Simpsons" and the darkest parts of "Married With Children", the TV-MA show seemed to take pride in pushing the limits and seeking out as many targets in current society to goof on as possible. The show developed a cult audience that followed it despite Fox's frequent shifts in the show's timeslot.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it focuses on the Griffin family, residents of Quahog, Rhode Island. Peter (creator Seth MacFarlane) is the heavy-drinking father who works in a toy factory, Lois (Alex Borstein of "Mad TV") is the calm leader, Meg (Mila Kunis of "That 70's Show" and Lacey Chabert for the earlier episodes) is the insecure daughter, Chris (Seth Green) the chubby and dim-witted son, Brian (MacFarlane) is the alcoholic dog who talks and Stewie (creator Seth MacFarlane earned an Emmy for his voice work on the character) is the diabolical baby who is bent on world domination.
The show's cult following and success on DVD had Fox reconsidering the show's cancellation, bringing it back for a new season (one episode's parody of A-HA's "Take On Me" video is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages) and this feature-length flick, which is essentially a lengthy episode of the show (the movie will be broken up into three episodes and broadcast on TV.)
"Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story" essentially revolves around Stewie trying to find his real father. After coming to the realization that Peter is far too stupid to actually be his father, Stewie thinks that a man who he sees that looks like him and thinks he must be his real father. In a search for what he thinks must be his real history, Stewie travels to find him. Needless to say - and I won't ruin anything by actually detailing the twist - things don't go exactly as Stewie planned. In a side story, Peter gets a gig hosting a segment called "What Really Grinds My Gears" on the local news channel, which turns local anchor Tom Tucker jealous.
"Family Guy" is often brilliant, but "The Untold Story" doesn't stand up to some of the best episodes of the series. Although there are some incredibly funny bits (Peter in the John Goodman role in "Roseanne", a riff on "Ferris Bueller", some TIVO material, a funny throwaway "Star Wars" gag, as well as a goof on "Family Feud") here, the plot doesn't sustain the film for the entire running time, and a few stretches (such as the opening and closing wrap-arounds) drag noticably.
Overall, fans of the show still will likely want to check out this feature, but it's not as ambitious as I'd expect from a "Family Guy" picture.
VIDEO: "Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story" is presented by Fox in 1.33:1 full-frame, the show's original aspect ratio. The picture quality (and animation) is about the same as a regular episode. Sharpness and detail are perfectly fine, as the animation appeared crisp and well-defined throughout.
Some minor shimmer appeared, but the presentation was otherwise fine, with no print flaws, edge enhancement or other concerns. Colors appeared bright and well-defined, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The 5.1 presentation doesn't do a whole lot for the show, simply spreading out the audio a bit more. As expected, there isn't much in the way of activity, but at least dialogue and music remain crisp and clear. There are both censored and uncensored versions, but the only difference is that the uncensored presentation has a few f-bombs.
EXTRAS: Creator Seth McFarlane is joined by the show's writers and actors in a commentary for the feature. Those familiar with the commentaries for the full season sets will find a similar effort here, as the groups (some participants arrive later) have a lot of fun joking about the final product and themselves, and chat about some of the issues that came up during the making of the movie.
There are also previews for "Family Guy: Vol. 3" and "American Dad", as well as an animatic comparison, but none of those features were available on the review copy.
Final Thoughts: "The Untold Story" has some hilarious moments, but it's somewhat uneven at times. The DVD release offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few supplements. Recommended.
The Film B-