Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 25, 2005)
In between the steady release of Simpsons full season sets, Fox has been putting out compilations of related episodes. Some make plenty of sense, like the Halloween and Christmas packages.
And then there’s Bart Wars, an odd conglomeration. Based on the cover art, one might expect that each of the four episodes connected to Star Wars in some way. The package shows Bart as Luke Skywalker, Homer as Darth Vader, Lisa as Leia, Marge as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Maggie as Yoda.
However, that’s not the case, as we very little to do with Star Wars in this set. I’ll discuss the disc’s potential theme at the end of this review. For now, let’s get to the shows themselves. I’ll present story synopses straight from the DVD’s package and also offer my own thoughts on each program.
Dog of Death (aired March 12, 1992): “The Simpsons’ dog needs an operation that the family can barely afford. They save the animal’s life but resent the dog so much that he runs away. He becomes one of Mr. Burns’ infamous hounds - til Bart’s love wins him back.”
From top to bottom, “Death” offers a terrific program. It launches DVD Four with a genuinely memorable show. From the cracks about the lottery and public hysteria that open the program to the calamities that befall the family when SLH gets sick to the bizarre escapades that greet the pooch when he flees, “Death” provides a hilarious piece. SLH-oriented shows seem to always work well – like Season Two’s “Bart’s Dog Gets an ‘F’” – and this one’s excellent. It even presents the funniest Clockwork Orange parody I’ve ever seen.
Marge Be Not Proud (aired December 17, 1995): “Bart shoplifts from a store, and thinks his crime has been successfully concealed. Then the Simpsons go to the store for a Christmas photo and Marge is ashamed to learn what her son has done.”
Despite being one of the sappier episodes at times, “Proud” still packs some terrific laughs. I about lost it when we got Homer’s drawing of a robot grilling a hot dog - it’s funnier if you see it - and Lawrence Tierney’s guest turn as the store detective adds hilarious grit to the show. It doesn’t fall into the “classic” category, but it offers more than enough entertainment to satisfy.
The Secret War of Lisa Simpson (aired May 18, 1997): “Bart joins an all-male military school - as does Lisa. Her gift is tested more than it ever has been, particularly when she must survive an obstacle course known as ‘The Eliminator’”.
“War” starts strong, especially when Chief Wiggum gives the fourth graders a tour of the station; I’ll have to adopt “California cheeseburger” as a pet phrase. However, despite the abundance of opportunities for humor at the military school, the show doesn’t exploit a lot of them. The rest of the episode mostly plods and lacks a lot of amusement. It entertains fitfully but not enough to turn into anything above average.
Mayored to the Mob (aired December 20, 1998): “The family attends the Springfield Bi-Monthly Science Fiction Convention (Bi-Mon Sci-Fi Con). After Homer saves Mark Hamill from unruly fans, he decides to become a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby - whose life is now being threatened by Fat Tony.”
The convention allows plenty of allusions to the Star Wars movies along with other science-fiction icons. The show mined similar territory with comic book conventions, but that’s only a minor aspect of the episode, as it focuses primarily on Homer’s adventures. The show doesn’t quite become inspired, but it offers some decent entertainment.
”Mob” is the only episode with any real connection to Star Wars. Obviously the presence of Hamill leads to most of the tie-ins, and the rest come from the convention. If Bart Wars meant to be a collection of Star Wars-related shows, it’d fit.
How does it tie to the other three shows? It doesn’t. Honestly, there’s no apparent rhyme or reason to the selection of episodes on Bart Wars. For a moment, I thought maybe these were supposed to be shows related to Bart being really, really bad; he certainly acts poorly in “War” and “Proud”. However, he does nothing wrong in the other two episodes. He plays only a minor role in “Mob” and actually behaves in his most altruistic mode in “Dog”, as he works selflessly to help Santa’s Little Helper.
So what’s the point of this collection? Other than to provide a pun of a title and some cute package art, I have no idea. There’s no logic behind the inclusion of most of the episodes, and some of them seem badly out of place. For instance, the two Simpsons Christmas DVDs present shows related to winter but not the holiday itself. Why isn’t “Proud” on one of those discs? Are monkeys running Fox? Could be. Bart Wars offers entertainment but makes no sense as a themed collection of programs.