Dad [1989]

Director: Gary David Goldberg
Stars: Jack Lemmon, Ted Danson, Kevin Spacey, Ethan Hawke, Olympia Dukakis
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 118 minutes

The "Laugh Alert" level is Elevated with the release of this second volume of episodes that chronologically span seasons 1 and 2. You know the "there" that people talk about when they say, "Don't go 'there'?" Seth MacFarlane's American Dad! leaves "there" in the dust. Take the holiday--excuse me, Christmas--episode, "The Best Christmas Story Never," which somehow melds Charles Dickens with a Ray Bradbury-esque cautionary tale of tampering with the past. CIA Agent and true patriot act Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane) loses the spirit of the season in a blizzard of PC secularism in which even the fugitive "Christmas rapist" must be referred to as "the holiday rapist." In the "is nothing sacred" world of American Dad!, Christmas can only be saved by Stan accompanying the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kudrow) back in time to (don't ask) kill Jane Fonda (or Donald Sutherland), take over the direction of Taxi Driver from a drug-free Martin Scorsese, and shoot Ronald Reagan. The Smith family--wife Francine, geeky son Steve, and "peace-pusher" daughter Hayley--is still not as vividly drawn as the Griffins on MacFarlane's Family Guy (even Klaus, the talking German-accented goldfish admits in one episode that his "fish shtick" is getting thin), but one can't help salute the audacity of the oft-inspired writing. In "Stannie, Get Your Gun," Stan becomes a National Gun Association spokesperson after being accidentally paralyzed by his anti-gun daughter. "The American Dad After School Special" has an A Brilliant Mind-like twist as Stan battles an eating disorder brought about by Steve's new overweight girlfriend. In "Helping Handis," Steve becomes the big man on campus after he develops steroid-enhanced breasts. Two episodes are standouts for their animation. "Dungeons and Wagons," as did South Park with "Make Love, Not Warcraft," creates a video game universe in which Steve rules. Near the end of "Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option," the screen adjusts to widescreen format, and the saga of the golden turd, begun in the first season episode, "Homeland Insecurity" compellingly continues with the jewel-encrusted oddity becoming the last temptation of an honest cop (Beau Bridges). American Dad! is, as should be apparent, not for all tastes (or more sensitive viewers--the episode "Tears of a Clooney" drops some unbleeped F-bombs), but fans of the series are rewarded with this three disc-set's prodigious extra features, including rowdy, chaotic commentaries for all the episodes, a wealth of hit and miss deleted scenes, and a segment devoted to the production of "Dungeons and Wagons." --Donald Liebenson

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