Everyone knows who The Simpsons are. The combination of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa & Maggie are all a fairly hefty piece of the television popular culture pie, not to mention many of the other great side characters in the show. It's really 50/50 on whether people are surprised or not that the show has become the longest American primetime entertainment series (the 23rd season starts September 2011). However, considering that the series started out as skits on The Tracy Ullman Show and became a full fledged tv show on its own in 1987, it's surprising that with the popularity the show garnered, it still took 20 years to a full feature film to be released. Another thing that surprises people who know me is that since I was such a huge Simpsons back in the day, it took me an additional four years to actually watch the movie. So, how is it? Was it worth the wait?
Fair warning: Half the town doesn't have any lines in this film.
So the plot of The Simpsons Movie is that after Grandpa Simpson has a freakout in the middle of church, Marge attempts to find out the meaning behind it, believing that Grandpa has somehow foretold Doomsday (now with less angel fossils and mall openings). Homer impulsively adopts a pig and dumps its waste into the already polluted Lake Springfield, pushing it to the point where it mutants any animal that jumps in and the Environmental Protection Agency steps in (sadly, without William Atherton) and quarantines Springfield under a giant glass dome. Once it's discovered that Homer was behind it, he and his family go on the run to avoid being lynched.
For some reason, Green Day makes a cameo in it. Don't worry, they die in the first three minutes.
If you were to ask me when the show reached its peak, I'd have to say anywhere between Seasons 7 & 9 (as you can tell from my blogs from last September of Top 15 Favorite Simpsons Episodes), so I'll come right out and say it: this movie came out far too late. Had they released a Simpsons film during Seasons 7-9, then this movie would've been absolutely hysterical. That being said, this movie is still funnier than the show is now (the last episode I tried to watch had Homer making Bart pee himself on a jumbo tron at a baseball game. Pardon the pun, but all it did was piss me off) and while it may not have been great, it was still good. Better than I figured it would be, to be honest. There's a actually a pretty heavy scene involving Marge & Homer's wedding tape that I didn't think The Simpsons had in them anymore, not to mention plenty of funny moments in here, including cameos from old characters, nods to previous episodes (wrecked ambulance by the gorge for the win!), and stuff that the show may not necessarily be able to get away with, including a satirical take on the whole "romantic Disney animal" cliche and Marge's line of, "SOMEBODY THROW THE GODDAMN BOMB!"
I got a good roar out of this part too.
However, there were downsides to this film as well. The movie starts with the town in a theatre watching an Itchy & Scratchy feature film and Homer says that everyone's a sucker for watching something they can watch on their tv for free. Another thing that bugged me was Arnold Schwarzenegger is supposed to be the President of America? Fine, but they just wound up using the Reniere Wolfcastle template for Schwarzenegger, so why not just call him President Wolfcastle? The next thing that pisses me off is how the technology has changed to show the environments in The Simpsons now. The characters are hand drawn (near as I can tell) where as the backgrounds are becoming more and more digital. I can dig the hand drawn characters over the painted backdrops, but when you put something hand drawn over something really digital, it just makes the characters look like a bad special effect and its distracting. Finally, I think the film has a bit of a slow start and nothing really starts happening until half an hour into the picture. The first bit honestly just feels like an unaired episode of the tv series that they just shoehorned into here. Some of this probably could have been trimmed down a tad.
I still want to know who at 20th Century Fox said, "You know what the public wants to see? Bart's penis." I'm not kidding.
Despite any faults the film may have, it's still much better than what's on Sunday nights now. The Simpsons Movie is a good way to kill an hour twenty minutes and will provide you with some laughs (and a faint Wilhelm scream!), provided you can stomach the digital animations sticking out like a sore thumb. If you're a die-hard old school Simpsons fan, such as I was, I'd recommend approaching this film with caution. If it pays off or even breaks even for you, then great. If not, then pop in Seasons 7-9 in your DVD player and enjoy.