Monday, February 25, 2008

The Simpsons Movie

Early in The Simpsons Movie, Homer stands up in the middle of an Itchy & Scratchy film and shouts, "I can't believe we're paying to see something we get on TV for free!" It's an acutely self-aware moment from a franchise that's never been short on self-awareness. But making a joke about it doesn't make it not true.

There's nothing particularly wrong with The Simpsons Movie, but there's nothing particularly great about it either. It really is just an 87-minute long episode with better production values. It's a pleasant waste of an hour and a half, if that's the sort of thing you're looking to do.

The plot? Okay, if you want. Homer--through an act that's 75% idiocy and 25% negligence--causes Springfield to be declared an environmental disaster area by the EPA, who then promptly cover the entire city with a gigantic dome. The Springfield citizens form an angry mob (as they are wont to do), and only a way-too-convenient twist of circumstance allows the Simpson family to escape with their lives. On their own, the Simpsons try to make a new life for themselves in Alaska, but Homer alienates his family by being too selfish to help the Springfield residents he left behind. Eventually (spoiler alert?) Homer learns the error of his ways and saves the day.

The plot, of course, needs only to be thick enough to hang the jokes off of, and it meets that requirement. In fact, it's kind of impressive how the show's creators manage to keep a selfish, brainless, boor like Homer just sympathetic enough that we hope he wins in the end. The selfishness, brainlessness, and boorishness are, of course, a surprisingly fecund supplier of comedy, but the show's (and movie's) real magic moments come from its more subtle gags--such as Marge, after Springfield has been enclosed in the dome, writing "Dome Sweet Dome" in her needlepoint, and later "Nome Sweet Nome" after the family has moved to Alaska.

It's hard to imagine spending $10 (or even $7, depending on where you live) to see this movie in theaters--you'd have to be really set on seeing a movie and there would have to be precious little else out. And, unless I were interested in accumulating as many Simpsons collectibles as possible, I wouldn't purchase the DVD either--it contains an appalling paucity of special features (a few mediocre deleted scenes, the highlight of which is Mo's line: "Many dead, I'm afraid. Many others ... also dead.") If you want to see this movie, I recommend seeing it the way I did--by borrowing it from your roommate, who got the DVD for Christmas.

In the end, it seems a rating of 4 is appropriate. The Simpsons Movie is doubtless on the positive side of the scale, but, ultimately, it's exactly what it was created to be: disposable entertainment.

(A movie like this really calls for an iconic lines section.)
Iconic Lines:
[Bart is skateboarding naked across town]
Ralph Wiggum: [brightly] I like men now.

Tom Hanks
: Hello, I'm Tom Hanks. The US Government has lost its credibility so it's borrowing some of mine.

Todd Flanders
: I wish Homer was my father.

Ned Flanders: ...and I wish you didn't have the devil's curly hair.


Particle Man said...

i'm a little surprised to find such a Simpsons connoisseur giving The Simpsons Movie (what the public might consider to be the Simpsons magnum opus) such a low rating. tell me this, DW. would this movie be even remotely worth the money for someone who has no appreciation for the Simpsons at all?

Dr. Worm said...

I don't know that I'm really a Simpson connoisseur. I've seen a fair swath of episodes, I think they're pretty funny, and I definitely appreciate what they've done for comedy and Americana in general. But I think I'm several steps short of being a connoisseur.

In any case, to answer the question you asked, it depends on what you mean by "no appreciation." Does "no appreciation" just mean unfamiliar with the Simpsons' work? Then sure, this movie would be worth seeing (though perhaps not more) worth seeing than some of their better episodes).

If "no appreciation" means "doesn't like" the Simpsons, though, then no. Those people should stay far, far away.

Moshe Reuveni said...

For the record (and I know I've been sticking my nose too deeply lately):
I like the Simpsons; they used to be good. For the last 5 years or so, however, they aren't. Since then they have been taken over by Family Guy, Robot Chicken, and American Dad; they just rely one their previously established reputation now.

Dr. Worm said...

I can't really speak to that. I enjoy The Simpsons, and I'm typically amused by their shows. But I don't watch with any regularity, and most of what I do watch is reruns, so I can't claim to have a sense of when they were good and when they were not.