Friday, August 03, 2007


Underachiever and Proud of It

By Odienator
Three minutes after Ralph Wiggum sings the CinemaScope part of the Fox fanfare, Homer asks us, "What moron would pay to see something they can see at home for free?" 82 minutes after that, you may be asking yourself the same question. There is nothing new under the sun nor in The Simpsons Movie. Sure, Homer gives the finger and Bart indulges his inner Harvey Keitel, but either of these items could have appeared on a "very special" Simpsons episode on Fox's smut-filled sister channel, FX. $12 is too much to pay for this rehash of better Simpsons episodes.

Despite the 11 writers credited to the script, The Simpsons Movie is an underachiever in terms of story. Stop me if you've heard this before: Homer fucks up, the town gets mad at him, Marge goes "urrrrrmmmmm" and at the end of the tale he suddenly becomes clever enough to clean up the mess he has made. This has been a winning formula for most of The Simpsons' TV tenure, but we turn on the TV expecting some redundancy. My disappointment lay in the fact that I did not see one idea here that warranted a full-length movie.

Any of the side characters could have contributed to a story long enough for a movie. Mr. Burns, Sideshow Bob, Apu, Dr. Nick, or even Chief Wiggum could have added some aspect of plot that lasted longer than 30 minutes. They hardly warrant more than cameo appearances. The story spends too much time with Homer and his stupidity, and the middle section sags until a crucial moment I'll get to shortly.

As it stands, Homer falls in love with a pig he christens Spider Pig. Homer's paean to Spider Pig is the funniest thing in the movie, especially when it's done with full choir during the credits. Spider Pig has something to do with a religious vision Grandpa Simpson has during church. "The light" made Jake Blues cartwheel down the aisle at James Brown's church in The Blues Brothers, and it makes Grandpa do the Curly Shuffle. "EPA! EPA!" yells Grandpa.

Meanwhile, Bart, after being duped by Homer into showing the Bart Man to the entire town, starts looking at Ned Flanders as a potential replacement father. This subplot is interesting — touching even — and I wouldn't have minded seeing more of Bart interacting with characters other than the Simpsons. Alas, the subplot is tossed aside.

After Lisa's "An Irritating Truth" lecture gets Springfield to clean up their version of the Gowanus Canal, Homer decides to, for the sake of a free doughnut, dump a silo full of Spider Pig's poop into Lake Springfield. This ties into Grandpa's vision, but before Marge can decode it all, the EPA shows up to put a giant glass dome on the now toxic Springfield. The EPA is represented by one A. (for Albert) Brooks, whose voiceover work is as good as ever. Brooks gets President Schwarzenegger to agree to blow Springfield off the map, and it's up to Homer to save the town despite the fact he has been run out of it by an angry mob.

There are some funny moments in the movie, and the first 20 minutes are clever and entertaining. Itchy and Scratchy get political and the main characters have what seem to be story arcs. Lisa falls in love with an Irish kid who wants to save the environment as much as she does, and Homer falls in love with Spider Pig, but all this is nearly forgotten during the family's escape to Alaska. The funniest gag in this section is in the trailer, and the film really starts to drag.

However, this section contains what may be the crown jewel of dialogue and acting in The Simpsons canon. Julie Kavner, as Marge, records a speech for Homer to watch before she leaves him. Marge's words are beautifully written and delivered by Kavner with an emotion that is startling. Unfortunately, this same "goodbye Homer" speech could be used by many fans of the show (such as the editor of this blog) who have written the show off as a mere shadow of what it used to be. Still, it is a beautiful moment to behold.

The Simpsons Movie isn't horrible, and rabid fans may find enough to chew on to keep them entertained. I doubt my standards were too high, as I too have stopped watching the show religiously, preferring to live in the past via DVDs and reruns. I was hoping I'd be shown something to make me fall in love again with The Simpsons. I laughed a few times but most of those laughs were reserved for the first 20 minutes of the movie and the closing credits songs. In fact, there is about 30 minutes of very good material in this film, which seems about right.

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This is what I feared and has kept me from venturing out to see this. For so many years, I've read TV critics such as the ones in Entertainment Weekly continue to put the TV show, a pale shadow of the greatest it once had, on their best lists so I took the praise for the movie with a grain of salt.
There are occasional flashes of brilliance, and the animators use the bigger screen for more throwaway gags than can fit in the TV, but when I left the theater I was unsatisfied. It took a while before I could put my finger on why I couldn't give this a positive endorsement like so many others. It really is just a big, blown up version of the TV show, with a script that is truly slumming.

The South Park movie runs out of stream 2/3rds of the way through, but still works because Parker and Stone did more than change the aspect ratio of their show. I wish the Simpsons Movie had been more daring and went for a new plot and new targets. I think the Simpsons Movie plays best for people unfamiliar with the show or fans who still think the show is still the Best...Show...Ever.
Thank you for this.

I saw it last week and felt the same way. I saw this as a chance to be the "Best Of" everything Simpsons and it wasn't even as funny as a 30 minute episode.

Some of the jokes were there, but overall it was a rehash of everything. Even the sub-plot of Bart and Flanders felt familiar.
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