-MONTHLY FILM & TV REVIEW-
The Simpsons Movie|
voice cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith
director: David Silverman
83 minutes (PG) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Jim Steel
What can one say about The Simpsons? That they jumped the shark years ago through the natural
turnover of writers? That Futurama was better and sharper? That they provide a human face for
the Murdoch corporate behemoth? All of the above points have some claims for validity, I suppose, but
are of precious little relevance to this movie. There is also the observation that the movie is merely
an extended episode. Given that most of the episodes fall into a first quarter set-up, followed by a
right-angled plot turn that then produces the main storyline to fill the other three-quarters of the
show, then - yes - it is an extended episode. All your old favourites are here as well: the 'Jebus'
joke, the 'leaping Springfield Gorge' joke, and so on. It skirts a fine line between pleasing the audience
and being self-indulgent.
What's new? Well, obviously being spread across the big screen has meant that the animation has had
to be tidied up. Those early seasons with their quaint, wiggly 1970s' style animation would make one's
eyes bleed if spread across the side of a building. The background animation in the movie is reminiscent
of manga in its use of line work and perspective. This occasionally means that the characters look as if
they have been placed flatly on top of it, despite the occasional piece of shading that they've been given.
What else? The luxury of an extended running time has meant that the punch lines for some jokes arrive just
half-a-beat too late, but fortunately this isn't too frequent a crime. One remembers with horror the films
of British sitcoms that tortured us in the last century to see how bad this could have been.
But what about the movie itself... what happens? Well, it starts off with an extended pre-credit
Itchy & Scratchy film that enables Homer (Dan Castellaneta) to stand up in the cinema and demand
to know why we are paying to watch something that we can see at home on TV for nothing. This being the
DVD release, the joke is somewhat wasted. However, being on DVD, we can skip Itchy & Scratchy - they
always were one-joke characters that were painful to sit through more than once at best. The film gets
underway with a rock concert at Lake Springfield - Green Day are playing on a barge which erodes because
of the pollution, killing the band. A great start to any film, if you ask this critic, as Green Day are
symptomatic of all that went wrong with punk.
Eventually even Springfield realises that enough is enough, and the townspeople clean up the lake and
ring it with concrete barriers to prevent further dumping. Homer, meanwhile, seems oblivious to most
of this. He is, instead, destroying his son's trust in him. There is a scene of certified genius where
Bart (Nancy Cartwright) skateboards nude through town (I won't spoil it for you, but you will laugh).
Homer's misguided attempts to patch things up backfire badly, with Bart bonding instead with annoying
God-bothering neighbour Flanders (Harry Shearer), who comes across remarkably sympathetically in the
movie, and Homer adopting a pig. Hey, it's The Simpsons - these things happen.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, pigs produce pig shit. Homer, who was never the most patient of
people, can't be bothered waiting in the queue for the official dump and instead dumps the piggie
poo in the lake. This turns the lake toxic, and Springfield becomes, officially, the most polluted
place in America. The Environmental Protection Agency, under the crazed leadership of Russ Cargill
(Albert Brooks), swings into action, rubber-stamped ("I was elected to lead, not to read.")
by President Schwarzenegger (Harry Shearer, again). Their solution is to drop a giant, transparent
dome over Springfield. (In scale, if not in detail, this is reminiscent of the episode where the town
becomes so clogged with rubbish that it has to be relocated five miles away - typical of the problems
facing the writers of a series that has been going for decades.)
The people of Springfield find out that Homer is the author of their evils and, not unnaturally,
try to lynch him. The family escape the sealed dome and try to make a new life for themselves in
Alaska, but then they discover that Cargill has even worse in mind for Springfield. Can they save
the town? Will Homer redeem himself? Of course, but it's the journey that makes it worthwhile. The
sheer density of the plotting makes the above a very basic skeleton indeed but, as with the TV episodes,
it is the details that make for repeated viewing pleasure. The frequent crowd scenes means that almost
all of the surviving secondary characters get a cameo - the one exception probably being Schwarzenegger's
Springfield avatar, Rainer Wolfecastle (another Shearer character), although I could be wrong. Those
crowd scenes looking annoyingly comprehensive. It's the smaller pieces that entice, though. Who's
attending the AA meeting, for example? Barney Gumble's (Castellaneta) there, of course, but some of
the others may initially surprise.
There are plenty of extras, including a variety of commentaries from a soccer team's worth of
directors, writers and actors. There are a few deleted scenes that, judging by the polished look
of them, must have been chopped at the preview audience stage. Some of them don't enhance the
movie and fall flat, so don't expect too much. There are a few bonus clips of Homer messing
around on American Idol and The Tonight Show (dire), and five varieties of trailer
for the movie. There are also a few trailers for other films packed in here as well, but the only
one with any relevance is the one for the Futurama film. Yum.