Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars is the Best Star Wars Parody (No, I'm Serious)

Star Wars parodies are a dime a dozen. It's pretty much a rule of law that any animated comedy show will have an episode or scene dedicated to parodying the franchise, and because of that the quality of these episodes can vary in quality. Some like the Robot Chicken specials or the Family Guy: Laugh It Up, Fuzzball trilogy are all time classics, but for every good one there is at least three that aren't exactly that. Still, it's hard to go wrong with them - even the less then stellar ones have enough for fans to chew on.

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2013, it was only a matter of time before one of their shows took advantage of said acquisition. While a ton of shows could have used it, Phineas and Ferb, in retrospect, was the only show that could have possibly have taken it. The show had achieved a level of popularity unlike any other show on their network at the time, and despite the show nearing it's conclusion, it was prime opportunity to do with this show like how they did so well with Mission Marvel back in 2013.

And it became the best parody the franchise ever received.

No, this is not a joke. In this writer's humble opinion, Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars is not only one of the best episodes of a show that rarely (if ever) had anything less then a good episode, but also the best Star Wars parody ever released. There is so much to love in it from it's in-jokes, to it's animation, to even it's sly and clever jabs at the series that never feel too mean spirited, but also aren't afraid to rip the universe a new one. But it's real gift is to actually tell a coherent, and ultimately great, Star Wars story within the confines of it's parody.

To give some context to those unfamiliar with the show, Phineas and Ferb follows two genius stepbrothers who try to make the most of every day of their summer vacation. They accomplish this by making large, impossible inventions through the sheer power of their imagination. Their sister, Candace, attempts to "bust" them to their mom to no avail (much to her dismay), all the while their pet platypus, Perry, fights as a secret agent known as Agent P against the evil yet incompletely lovable Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. In the end, these plots converge on each other, making sure that their inventions disappear and Doofenshmirtz's plots are foiled. Rinse and repeat. This formula would seemingly get boring after the 222 episodes produced for the show, but the genius of the show was that the formula was simply a means to an end - the characters did all of the heavy lifting, along with the meta gags, visual humor, and smart, intelligent dialogue that never talked down to kids.

Unlike most parody episodes, Phineas and Ferb doesn't attempt to simply recreate the events of the film with it's own characters. Instead, it places it's character wholesale into the universe itself and tells a story running parallel to A New Hope - in fact, that movie pretty much remains untouched outside of a couple of gags. Instead, the story revolves around Phineas and Ferb who live next door to Luke on Tatooine, and unlike Luke, have no real concerns about leaving what they consider to be "the best planet in the galaxy" - a clever and funny role reversal from the original film. Of course, they end up getting sucked into the story after R2-D2 loses the Death Star plans, and they have to head out to give it back before the Rebellion launches their assault.

The special is mostly working on two different levels here. First of all, it's a Star Wars parody first and foremost, and as such the jokes are the main attraction. On a simple comedic level, it's very funny to both casual and hardcore fans alike of both franchises, with the Star Wars jokes in particular being very clever. Doofenshmirtz originally designing the Death Star as a nutcracker? Funny, but even funnier is the exhaust port actually being a self-destruct button - something that only this show could have pulled off and make work. And while some of them are obvious, like the stormtrooper armor being made of plastic, it never feels too low bearing or "been there, done that". In fact, many of the observations about the world of Star Wars comes less about what we do see on screen, but what we don't - like how does the Empire do their accounting? Or how do regular people travel the galaxy - is there some kind of bus system? It's this level of ingenuity that allows many of the visual jokes to shine, particularly with anything involving the Empire. It's filled with gags and references beyond that of A New Hope as well, with jokes spanning all original six films (the special was released prior to the sequel trilogy), video games, the Legends books, and even a reference a cut deleted scene from A New Hope, one that is almost shot for shot like the original scene.

This humor also transfers over if you aren't a fan of Star Wars and simply are here for the Phineas and Ferb shenanigans. It allows the basic formula of the show surprisingly closely, albeit with some small changes to justify it being in the setting. Most of the changes though are simply visual or character motivations (some being bigger then others), and those familiar with the standard formula of the show will be able to pick up on it really quickly. As such, all of the running gags from the show are here in glorious fashion and all of them are very funny as per usual. The show's style of humor turns out to be a perfect fit for the Star Wars universe, as the show's unique blend of witty, almost "too adult for Disney" style of dialogue with visual slapstick gags turns out to fit the more fantastical setting with ease. There's even jokes aimed at long time adult fans of the show, including a gag about Phineas and Candace's parentage that will surely get a laugh from those who know the show.

But where I think the episode comes in as a true classic, and why it's successful as a Star Wars parody, is that it also is trying to tell an actual Star Wars story. It's not simply content with making fun of the universe - instead, Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh are more interested in using the setting to their advantage for both narrative and comedic ends. Honestly it's only a parody by virtue of making fun of the tropes at points, if anything this is something more similar to Star Trek: Lower Decks from this year. It's a comedic version of the universe, but it's still actively trying to tell a narrative with actual stakes and consequences. The key to this lies in one unexpected character - Isabella Garcia-Shapiro.

In the original series, Isabella was the perky, kind girl from across the street with a huge and obvious crush on our lead Phineas, who never notices much to her dismay. While much of her personality early on in the show was defined by said crush, she evolved as the series went on and became one of the most beloved characters on the show, capable of helming several episodes of her own (she even almost got a spin-off!). The Isabella in the special couldn't be more different however - the character is completely reinvented as a no-nonsense, morally grey anti-hero whose more interested in a quick buck and getting out alive then helping people, which is clearly meant to be a parallel to Han Solo from A New Hope.

This goes a step further by actually having Isabella talking to Han himself in the third act, and this is where the special plays it's cards. The scene, while containing some funny lines here and there, is played unusually straight for the show, and instead seeks to dive into both characters emotional arcs. It's not only a scene that allows fans a glimpse into Isabella they've never seen before, but also gives Han's arc from A New Hope more weight and purpose, actively improving on the original film.

Scenes like that are all over the special, ones that empathize story and character over anything else. The subplot involving Ferb turning evil which, while undeniably a funny visual, is played almost entirely straight - the relationship between the two brothers was always an integral part of the show and it's given a unique Star Wars flavoured flair here with the classic "family member goes bad" that all three trilogies have used.

And while we are on the topic of great things, did I mention it's a musical as well?

In true Phineas and Ferb fashion, the special is a full blown musical with several numbers throughout, all of which are Star Wars themed. This could have been a lazy gimmick, but as long time fans of the show, and hell even non-fans will tell you, the music from the show is anything but lazy - every song here is brilliant, with each one using Star Wars iconography and lyrics in funny, clever, and catchy ways. The opening song "Tatooine" is particularly fantastic in that regard as it taps into the obscure for references, though my personal favourite is the march like "In the Empire", which is sung by an Imperial version of Candace that is not only insanely catchy and funny, but also uses a full orchestra to it's full advantage.

All and all, if you haven't seen this special and you are Star Wars fan, then I highly implore you to do so. It's one of the best parodies of the franchise ever put out, and it's also just a great piece of television in it's own right with great animation, stellar writing, and a fantastic understanding of what makes both franchises, particularly Star Wars, so good. It's pretty much a must watch for any fan, and now I can only hope that they eventually do an Empire Strikes Back special.

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars can be watched on Disney+.


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