"AMERICAN DAD: VOLUME 4"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Seth MacFarlane as STAN SMITH/ROGER
Wendy Schaal as FRANCINE SMITH
Scott Grimes as STEVE SMITH
Rachael MacFarlane as HAYLEY SMITH
Dee Bradley Baker as KLAUS
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Created by: Seth MacFarlane,
Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman
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The Smith family is back for another batch of trouble. From the creators of “Family Guy,” “American Dad!” follows Stan Smith, a CIA agent trying to hold onto family values and protect democracy. His trophy wife Francine tries to keep the family together as nerdy son Steve deals with social problems and hippie daughter Hayley continues to rebel. Also part of the family is Roger the alien and Klaus the fish with the brain of an East German Olympian.
“American Dad!: Volume 4” straddles the third and fourth season of the series, containing 14 episodes, including the mid-season masterpiece “Tearjerker.”
WHAT I LIKED
I have been a huge fan of “American Dad!” ever since I watched its first season, which was brilliantly done and offended all sides of the political spectrum. After a bit of left-wing preachiness in the second season, “American Dad!” settled with a “South Park” flavor that allowed it to make fun of anyone.
Volume 4 continues to be irreverent and an equal-opportunity offender. While Stan is the anchor of the show, the real scene stealer is Roger, who gets the focused treatment in this volume. The best episodes of this three-disc set have Roger in the center. “Officer Spaceman” gives Roger a trip into the real world when he photographs himself a la Peter Parker and leaks the photos to Stan’s CIA buddies.
Another brilliant Roger episode comes in “The One That Got Away” in which one of Roger’s alter-egos takes on a life of its own and he literally becomes his own worst enemy.
The stories in “American Dad!” have more cohesion than your typical episode of “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy,” offering an over-the-top story. They don’t always touch on politics, but with Stan in the CIA, it’s impossible to escape some of this, but it’s usually handled in a way for common sense to prevail. For example, in the “Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie’s Gold” episode, some digs are jabbed at Oliver North, but not so hard that the filmmakers begin to preach.
Even the aspects of dirty politics are examined when Steve seeks revenge on those running a bitter smear campaign against his girlfriend in “Escape from Pearl Bailey.”
Some of the other stories include Stan’s bizarre Oedipus complex with his mother, the decadence of spring break, Stan being unable to say “I love you” to Hayley, Steve learning the truth of what happens to male chicks on the farm and Stan struggling to keep his life separate from his CIA body double.
Still, the pinnacle of this volume is the James Bond spoof “Tearjerker.” I know we’ve seen plenty of James Bond send-ups over the years, but this “American Dad!” version is hilarious, bringing Roger out as a ruthless Bond villain (quite possibly his true calling). This episode manages to poke fun at Bond films, the Oscars and even Matthew McConaughey all at the same time... a true sign of brilliance.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Aside from wishing for the complete fourth season to be included on this three-disc set, there’s not much for me to complain about.
Like other releases from the Seth MacFarlane family, all fourteen episodes of “American Dad!: Volume 4” include a commentary track. There are also more than an episode’s worth of deleted scenes, the best of which come from the “Tearjerker” episode.
Three featurettes are also included. “Tearjerker: And Then They Will Cry” examines the challenges faced and the efforts the crew made to develop the pivotal episode. “Roger: Master of Disguise” invites the animators to discuss Roger’s affinity for dressing up, why no one recognizes his alien features when he puts on a wig and why he looks so much like Kevin Bacon. Finally, there’s a spotlight on Comic-Con 2008 which includes a live table read of “Pulling Doubt Booty.”
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of cartoons for grown ups... and anyone not easily offended.