Review: The Simpsons Movie

It is hard to believe, but The Simpsons are twenty years old! Equally odd is that this longest continuously syndicated animated cartoon in American history went twenty years without hitting the big screen. If Simpsons fans were anxious, then their long nightmarish wait is thankfully over. Moreover, I can report that I literally cannot recall ever laughing harder at a full-length animated movie than I did at The Simpsons Movie.

It helps of course to have such an established cast of characters that we all know and love. Yes, we know and love them all, from Sideshow Bob to Crusty the Clown to Moe the Bartender. This 87-minute movie works pretty much all of them in, although some characters like Mr. Burns shows up only tangentially. The writers wisely chose to go for lots and lots of gags rather than worry about whether all their characters get sufficient screen time. From the 20th Century Fox credits at the beginning where Martin Prince shows up singing along with the tune (from the middle of the zero) to the closing credits (stick around until the end) the laughs rarely stop. The Simpsons are on steroids in this movie, if that is possible.

I confess that I am a very sporadic viewer of The Simpsons television show. I lost my interest in watching episodic TV years ago. Like any animated cartoon, The Simpsons had its good episodes and weak episodes. In any event, it was not a compelling enough cartoon for me to watch religiously, particularly once the Internet age began. Besides, it was on Fox. Nuff said.

The producers could have taken the easy route making this movie. Thankfully, they decided to use the opportunity to its fullest. What you get is not just what make the Simpsons brilliant, but much, much more of what made them brilliant. Admittedly, when blown up on the big screen the things you tend not to notice when on TV, like the yellow skin of all the Simpson characters, can be distracting. Most likely, you will be too busy laughing to care.

The plot does not matter, but just in case you are curious, it goes something like this: Despite Lisa Simpson’s earnest efforts as Springfield’s top environmentalist, the residents are environmentally hostile. They turn Springfield into the most polluted city in America. After a decision by President Schwarzenegger, the EPA covers Springfield in an unbreakable plastic cone, dooming the trapped residents of Springfield. Maggie discovers a sinkhole in their backyard, which lets the Simpsons escape. This is good because after Homer disposes of his pet pig’s toxic waste in Lake Springfield (the final straw that brings down the EPA’s wrath) the town is out to lynch them. They move to the promised “country” of Alaska. Marital disharmony ensues. Eventually Homer figures the only way to redeem himself is to return and save Springfield. It is the usual nonsensical plot but of course serves an effective frame for the hilarity this movie is rife with.

If you are American, you have to love The Simpsons. At this point, the Simpsons are more American than apple pie. Almost every character is a gloriously memorable stereotype. The TV show is offensive and crass but the movie is much more offensive and crass. This is of course one of the keys to its success. Ironically, The Simpsons Movie, rather than being mediocre, is probably one of the best examples of an animated comedy in the last couple of decades. I cannot imagine being a devoted Simpsons fan and not owning a DVD of the movie. Even as a casual fan I am tempted to own the movie. Like most Simpsons TV shows, it is full of allusions to other movies and shows. I feel like I need repeated viewings to catalog all of them. Given a little time and distance, perhaps The Simpsons Movie will achieve something like cult status.

I was offended but loved every minute of it. The Simpsons and the crazy cast of characters populating the city of Springfield are all national treasures. They deserve immortalization in the Smithsonian right next to Archie Bunker’s chair.

It feels odd to rate a movie like this. As a comedy, it is in the top ten percent of those I have seen. Of course, if you are not a Simpson fan you probably will not like the movie as much. I give it 3.3 on my 4.0 scale.

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