Even after the near-instant success of the weekly series rumblings soon started of a Simpsons movie.  However, back at this point the plucky band of writers, voice talent and animators were young, naïve and were not sure how to extend the weekly twenty-two minute animated comedy into a full-length motion picture.  In an interview I am now too lazy to accurately site or look up one of the series producers suggested making a musical.  This, however, is not the case despite Homer’s soon-to-be internet classic “Spider-Pig”.

The SimpsonsWhat we get in The Simpsons Movie is exactly what you see most Sunday evenings on FOX television.  Characters, voice acting and animation technique aside I have just described the full range of the movie in one sentence. 

Let’s go deeper.   What made the Simpsons a piece of American Culture was what happened between seasons three and nine, widely accepted as the best of the series’ run.  At this point the cartoon full of yellow people was edgy, pulled no punches and was the definitive comment on the rest of American culture.

All good things must come to an; end and by approximately season ten the show had made the transition from commenting on American culture to being part of that American culture. This led the way for the next generation of animated parody in South Park and Family Guy.

Now nearly another decade removed from the height of the franchise how does the big screen debut stack up?

The film starts out giving each of our four main protagonists a plot element.  Bart finds a new father figure in Ned Flanders.  Lisa meets her dream boy in an Irish lad new to town who is equally passionate about the environment.  Marge tries to interpret a heavenly prophecy spouted by Grandpa and Homer… well believe it or not he’s gotten dumber. More on this in the second act. 

The first twenty minutes is essentially a constant barrage of jokes, some try too hard, while others do hit the mark squarely.  This both amuses and angers fans who now have to accept the fact that someone can write good material for the Simpsons.  Where has this been for the past five years?

In addition to the noticeably funnier Springfield, we see a nice facelift due to more sophisticated digital animation than is used on television.  The lines are cleaner, there is more shadow, and each object, despite it’s 2-D rendering has a third dimension and in many cases camera angles are used to take advantage of these additional features. 

There is not a long wait before we get to the first conflict in the movie: Environmental disaster.  One unfortunate consequence of the Simpsons moving from parodying popular American culture to becoming part of that American culture is that it becomes a parody of what it once was.   The film quickly does this as an early joke in which the alternative rock band Green Day interrupts their concert to talk about the pollution in the lake. The townspeople then throw stones and yell “Preachy!” which is what the film becomes for a moment. 

Given the environmental issue we get several, as expected, left-of-center political jokes.  Keep in mind the Simpsons have traditionally not ever completely joined one side or the other and while the political humor does lean mostly towards the blue states, the red states get a few shout outs. 

The environmental subject matter eventually gives way to a larger less plausible, and thus more acceptable in animated format, plot. Springfield is placed under a dome by the government after Homer does something so incredibly stupid and meaningless I have honestly forgotten some of the specifics. 

This leads us into our primary conflict, The Simpsons being run out of town because of Homer’s stupidity and selfishness.

Homer could be less stupid 
 The second act is mostly at a loss for humor, as we spend most of our time trying to comprehend Homer’s stupidity.  The biggest difference between the movie and the series would have to be Homer having gotten stupider and the rest of Springfield actually gaining some common since. 

What saves the movie is not a third-act return to comedy but a gripping thrilling action escapade (yes, I’m still talking about the Simpsons Movie) involving Homer, a stunt motorcycle and a nuclear device about to explode (yes, I’m STILL talking about the Simpsons Movie). 

What is nice to see is that there is still originality left in the life of the Simpson’s. While not quite outdoing such classic episodes as “Mr. Plow”, “Bart the Daredevil”, “Saturdays of Thunder” or “Marge Vs. The Monorail” but the Simpsons Movie has enough humor, commentary and attitude to remind you why you used to make it a point to sit down in front of the TV every Sunday at 8:00. 

While most fans will spend time debating not IF The Simpsons as a TV series has jumped the shark, but exactly when and how many times since then, the movie just may be a kick in the pants the franchise needs to recover and start toward a new era of greatness.

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