The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            Matt Groening’s and producer James L. Brooks’ show has been on the air for 18 years. There are graduating seniors who cannot remember a world without “The Simpsons” in it. The show’s characters have become as ubiquitous as Popeye, Bugs Bunny, and Clutch Cargo. More than just a popular television show, “The Simpsons” is a cultural phenomenon which has changed the country’s view on sitcoms, television, animation, and, in many cases, humor in general.

            Did we need a movie version? I suppose so. “The Flintstones” needed movies. “The Jetsons” got one. Most popular sitcoms (and to a greater degree, sci-fi shows) got some kind of multi-part “event” show or theatrical release. These are designed to whip up our enthusiasm for the show, to showcase larger talents from the cast and crew, and generate revenue based on familiar goodwill and fandom. If you’re a fan of the thing being made cinematic, then you’ll love the cinema version.


            The thing is, the films or events were never as impressive as the everyday adventures presented in the series. Case in point: are any of the “Star Trek” films as much fun as any of the series as a whole?


            The same holds true “The Simpsons Movie,” directed by David Silverman (“The Road to El Dorado,” “Monsters, Inc.”). It is very impressive. The technical skill that went into the animation was astounding. The voice actors really stretch into new areas. The jokes are dirtier than on the show. The story does involve a lot of larger ideas that the show’s meager budget wouldn’t be able to handle (such as a giant glass dome being lowered over the entire city of Springfield). It’s still very funny, too. Some of the jokes (as well as the self-reflexive satire, and not-so-subtle societal skewering that the show is known for) are utterly hysterical.


            But despite all this, there still seems something perfunctory about the film. Like the filmmakers couldn’t think of a reason for this to be a theatrical release at all. It doesn’t deal with any issues or story arcs that the show hasn’t already covered many times before and with greater skill. In short, it’s a big long episode of the show. Nothing too wrong with that, I suppose.


            The story: Homer (Dan Castellaneta) dumps a silo of pig waste into the local lake, causing the entire town to be declared a safety hazard. The EPA solution (suggested by A. Brooks) involves the aforementioned glass dome. The family finds a way to flee the dome, and hides out for a while in Alaska. Bart (Nancy Cartwright), meanwhile, has come to see what a doofus his dad is, and begins bonding with Bible-lovin’ neighbor Ned (Harry Shearer). Lisa (Yeardley Smith) has a crush on the new kid. Marge (Julie Kavner) begins to have doubts about her marriage to the world’s stupidest man. And talented series regulars Hank Azaria, Tress MacNeille, and Russi Taylor all, of course, reprise their many roles.


            Like I said, there’s a lot of funny, funny stuff. There’s a lot of unexpected dirty stuff (a character gives the finger, more nudity than one would expect in the show). There’s a lot of visually impressive stuff (even the colors and the character’s movements seem more fluid and natural). But there’s still not enough of a stretch to warrant this film being a film. It’s been advertised to death (to the extent that some 7-11 convenience stores have been remake into “Kwik-E-Marts”), and the ads would have us believe that the film truly is an event for the ages. But the film still doesn’t feel like an “event.”

             But perhaps that was the filmmaker’s way of keeping the film, and by extension the show, timeless. If it was crammed with too much “revolutionary” stuff, it would probably be scoffed at in a decade (when the show has presumably left the airwaves) as a product of its time, and a testimony to the film’s egotistical self-importance. By keeping it small, maybe the writers (11 in all) were trying to keep the film at the same level as the show, and hence watchable by every fan everywhere for years to come.

Published in: on August 6, 2007 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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