August 11, 2007

The Simpsons Movie review

The Simpsons Movie

Matt: Four Stars
Four Stars

Length: 87min


See our family. And feel better about yours.
For years, lines have been drawn…and then colored in yellow.

Review by Matt:

Everyone knows that The Simpsons is genius. It’s permeated modern culture. It’s given us a consistently amusing spin on pretty much everything. And it’s coined so much innovative material that there’s countless 20 – 30 year olds who can respond to any situation with a Simpsons quote. Ever since Matt Groening first morphed his misanthropic rabbits into a dysfunctional television family, it’s been 15 years of post-modern, satirical joy for viewers the world over. Televised joy, that is. The Simpsons never ventured into the chancy world of cinema, where our cherished culture is so often devoured and regurgitated as some galling blockbuster rip-off. There have been so many television and comic book icons sullied by a journey to the big screen that there must have been a hoard of anxious Simpsons fans sweating about the release of The Simpsons Movie.

They can breathe easy and let out a Homer-esque woohoo! The creators of The Simpsons Movie – and it seems all the central creative minds were on board – have transported the show to the cinema with loving care. They would have had to, because the television Simpsons made plenty of fun of flimsy Hollywood cinema over the years – even of TV-to-blockbuster cinema. The film itself opens with a self‑reflective gag that chastises the audience for paying to see a television show at the cinema. Your money is well spent though, because this is The Simpsons on the big screen, as sharp, satirical and hilarious as ever.

So the film hasn’t deflated a cultural institution – phew. But is it anything more than a ninety-minute Simpsons episode? Well, no, not too much more. And what else should this film really have been anyway? The additional joys injected into the cinematic Simpsons are appropriate. Visually it looks grand on the widescreen – there’s some neat 3D animation, a thousand Simpsons characters to spot, and there’s even a surprise penis. Obviously, it’s also much longer than a single episode, so there’s room for more sumptuous gags. It’s also able to develop a movie-length plot. This meanders at first, but is pretty innovative. It is also erected to buttress ninety minutes of mischievous social satire, targeting everything: politics, religion, corporations, the media, and everyday people.

The story features an overzealous Environmental Protection Agency – sanctioned by an ignorant but impressionable President Schwarzenegger – suppressing an environmental hazard in Springfield with a shock-and-awe style blitzkrieg. This sets the Simpsons off on a town-saving adventure. They’re central of course because, as we’d expect, it was Homer that endangered the town to begin with (I also realised, as Springfield charged at him with torches and pitchforks, that this must have been Homer’s fifth or sixth town lynching over the years).

The plot bounces by lightly, leaving ample time for irreverent non-sequiturs and other comical flourishes. They’re great, and they really help maintain the film’s very cheery style of cynicism. It’s probably been a while since the television Simpsons has been this sharp-witted; you’d have to stick together four pretty high-quality episodes to match the film. I grinned or laughed through almost its whole length, with only a few shallow lulls. I probably wasn’t as touched by the film’s touching moments as I should have been – I think I just expect The Simpsons to remain ironic and amusing all of the time – but a dash of poignancy wasn’t out of place in the cinema-length format.

Admittedly, I’ve been inculcated by the enduring themes and icons of The Simpsons, so it’s difficult for me to imagine how a Simpsons virgin would view this film. But apart from missing the many in-references, and meeting characters who’ve been developed over 15 years of television rather than in the film, these viewers are sure to enjoy the bounty of laughs and, like anyone would, appreciate the bright social commentary. But wait, I can’t really guarantee that, can I? Who are you, strange outsider, that has never seen The Simpsons? Would you really be au fait with all the social commentary?

The Simpsons Movie won’t be remembered throughout history for being – as ‘the comic book guy’ would say – the “Best. Movie. Ever.” It is just another fantastic and funny piece of The Simpsons’ oeuvre bumped off the TV and into the cinema. As that, it’s a film that is almost impossible not to appreciate and enjoy. There’s not much on the television or in the cinema that you can say that about.


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