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LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out DVD Review

LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out
Special & DVD Details

Original Air Date: September 26, 2012 / Running Time: 22 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-G on air, Ages 6+ on case)

Director: Guy Vasilovich / Writer: Michael Price

Voice Cast: Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenneth Cooley (Admiral Piett), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass), Julian Glover (General Veers), Floyd Lloyd (Luke Skywalker), Matt Sloan (Darth Vader), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Lisa Fuson (Princess Leia Organa), John Armstrong (Han Solo), Andrew Secombe (Watto), Tom Kane (Narrator, Yoda), Sam Witwer (Darth Maul, Emperor Palpatine), Robert Dennis, Jason Canning (Admiral Ozzel), Yazmin Watkins

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: March 26, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Box with Mini Figure

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Thirty-six years after it all began, Star Wars remains one of the biggest and most valuable of all film franchises. The youngest of moviegoers who caught the original film in its original theatrical run are now middle-aged.
Their children and possibly even grandchildren belong to the target demographic for LEGO Star Wars. As it sounds, this crossover franchise merges George Lucas' characters with the interlocking construction toys that have been a part of childhood for over sixty years. It's maybe not the most logical union, but no family-friendly entertainment universe has seemed to resist partnering with LEGO. Everything from Harry Potter to Bob the Builder has gotten the treatment.

Perhaps the most popular of those, LEGO Star Wars has encompassed not only toys and video games, but animated shorts. The Empire Strikes Out is the second half-hour special born out of this collaboration, following a couple of five-minute shorts and 2011's The Padawan Menace. Like Padawan, this special made its premiere on Cartoon Network.

LEGO Darth Vader tests out his stranglehold on a subordinate officer. Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 try to lose swooning fangirls in "LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out."

Empire Strikes Out is not a recap or parody of The Empire Strikes Back, but rather an original tale incorporating characters from both the original trilogy (Darth Vader, Luke, Han Solo, Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and Yoda, to name just a few) and the less revered prequels (Darth Maul, Watto, Jar Jar Binks). However, irreverent comedy clearly trumps the plot. Juvenile humor is the main course, with dishes including Three Stooges-type slapstick, modern slang, innocent bathroom bits, and some visual gags.

The makers of this special are under the impression that recreating this beloved space universe with CG LEGOs requires lightening the tone considerably and going strictly for kids (who have long loved Star Wars just as it is) and not the Star Wars fans this would seem to be of obvious interest to. Nonetheless, the fans who have not grown bitter to the franchise will still check this out and appreciate the few bones thrown their way, with some jokes acknowledging their memes and zealotry.

If "Family Guy" and "Robot Chicken" can laugh at Star Wars, why can't Lucasfilm itself with the backing of the LEGO brand? Writer Michael Price and director Guy Vasilovich are both veterans of animation, with filmographies that extend twenty to thirty years and include everything from Disney animated classics and nostalgia-inducing '90s Nickelodeon cartoons to live-action sitcoms and "The Simpsons." They know Lucas' universe well enough, even if they're rarely compelled to prove that. Their voice cast largely hails from other Star Wars enterprises, from the films themselves (Anthony Daniels, Ahmed Best, Brian Blessed, Kenneth Colley and Julian Glover) to video games and cartoons like "The Clone Wars."

In Naboo, Princess Leia and Han Solo are stopped by rebel forces and storm troopers.

The animation is deliberately crude. Settings and visual effects stay true to the Star Wars universe, while the simplistic design is faithful to that of LEGO figures.
Running under twenty-two minutes with credits, the production is expectedly featherweight both in tone and content.

Surprisingly and suspiciously deemed not a big enough draw to warrant the kind of Blu-ray combo pack Padawan got, Empire strikes Out came to DVD alone this week (which wields an impressive double-digit sales figure at Amazon). It arrives six months after its cable premiere, with a short runtime, a low list price, and, of greatest interest to some, an exclusive mini figure of Darth Vader specific to this special.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Empire Strikes Out does not transcend DVD's limitations, but the anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound are both exemplary for standard definition animation. French and Spanish dubs are provided, along with subtitles, although the French ones translating on-screen graphics can complicate playback, as the combination of Fox DVDs and my Sony Blu-ray player sometimes does.

It wouldn't be Star Wars without an opening scroll. This one, however, makes the unusual decision to end with a Not joke. Darth Maul and Darth Vader do light saber duel on The Empire Strikes Out DVD's main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Only a disc-opening promo for The Padawan Menace accompanies the special.
The disc's few menus feature static scenes, only the main of which is accompanied by John Williams' iconic Imperial March.

With no on-disc bonus features to speak of, those who have already seen the featured special may be most excited by the medal-wearing Vader mini figure modeled after the special's closing celebration scene. Standing around two inches tall, the figure features poseable limbs, a rotating head (which niftily can be removed to reveal a scarred old Anakin below), and a thin cape. I imagine all of that must be pretty exciting for those who collect Star Wars LEGO figures.

The inclusion of the figure, held in a plastic compartment, sees the DVD's standard Eco-Box keepcase packaged in a big box resembling computer software from the '90s (which on my review copy got pretty demolished in transit). A double-sided insert within the DVD's case promotes -- what else? -- LEGO Star Wars characters and playsets.

Inopportune bathroom visits render Chewbacca and C-3PO secondary roles as comic relief. When Boss Nass talks, those around him get wet.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

LEGO Star Wars seems to be aimed primarily at young Cartoon Network viewers who aren't really crazy about Star Wars itself. Those versed in Lucas' lore will appreciate the subtler jokes, some of which are kind of amusing. For the most part, though, this isn't clever or funny enough to entertain anyone over 10 more than once. Occupying a tiny fraction of a single-layered DVD's capacity, the special lends more to being one of many bonus features on a big box set, not something given its own purchase and case. Those who disagree may be disheartened by the lack of a Blu-ray edition.

Buy LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out on DVD at Amazon.com

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Reviewed March 28, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Lucasfilm, LEGO, and 2013 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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