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Movie Review: The Simpsons Movie

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Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie take their televised antics to the big screen in the 87 minute Simpsons Movie, directed by TV vet David Silverman.

The Simpsons still resists categorization; influences modern society, and represents a unique break from the world after hundreds of television episodes – a testament to the basic concept of the show illustrated by creator Matt Groening in the following quote:

Most other cartoons, except the Disney films, don’t seem to do [include emotion]. They are just about surface emotion. The [Simpsons] has a rubber band quality. We stretch it way out into the far reaches of human folly, and it snaps back to relative sanity.

Just like the television show, The Simpsons Movie has familiar archetypes, where an audience member can recognize a certain character or concept, creating a link to the real world. For example, Homer’s daughter Lisa embodies responsibility and honesty. Homer’s neighbor Flanders represents Christianity and moral living.

The plot focuses on the family, but does include a few of the standard pop culture references, political jokes, and some high profile cameo appearances. More of these elements would’ve punched up the comedy more, but more conventional elements (like a love interest for Lisa named Colin) are inserted instead. There’s still enough above average comedy for tickling funny bones. The beginning act loads up jokes, gags, and a memorable skateboarding sequence. The remaining minutes feed steady comedy amid the crisis situation and events centering on the Simpson family.

Screenwriters use domestic issues between Homer and Marge for the dramatic parts of the plot. Homer’s impulsive irresponsibility and Marge’s graceful tolerance has always been an underlying theme in the show. Their relationship gets pushed to the brink in this movie. The usual “save the world” theme comes up too, but works pretty well in the Springfield setting. Homer must do some soul searching to mend his selfish ways borrowing heavily from the TV episode where Homer finds understanding after a chili cook off.

Hans Zimmer creates the bouncy musical score, which complements Danny’s Elfman’s classic theme song. Moviemakers utilize computer animation in several sequences similar to the Futurama television series, another Matt Groening production. The main success of The Simpsons lies in the comedy. Some jokes may not make sense initially, but the plot usually comes back to reality. The creators’ creative freedom in this movie (and the  TV series) provide a lot of great moments. The length of time spent on the movie also helps (official script work started in 2003, but many ideas/jokes accrued over the show’s 18-year history).

The Simpsons only reaches average levels when the level of self-referencing encompasses the entire show. Luckily, the movie limits self-referencing to the beginning sequence. Audiences don’t have to be fans to enjoy the comedy, but fanatics will get some nice references (e.g. watch the background during the Springfield Gorge motorcycle jump) and several eye candy moments. I often laugh out loud (or in my head) when I experience a situation similar to something presented in The Simpsons, which has included almost every life situation imaginable. It’s become a comedic gold mine to many aficionados.

Producers have plenty of material and additional character opportunities for movie sequels. The only limitation would be the willingness of the solid voice talent including Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Awakenings), Nancy Cartwright (Bart), Yeardley Smith (As Good as It Gets), Hank Azaria (The Birdcage) and Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap). Recommended and rated PG-13 for crude humor, references, and language.

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