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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Simpsons Movie (review)

Worst. Conversation. Ever.

So I finally had a chance to see The Simpsons Movie last night, and I gotta tell ya, I laughed a lot. Out loud. Which isn’t something I tend to do a lot at the movies–

Hang on: I’m getting a call. I’ll put it on speaker.

Hel-looo. I must vigorously protest the usage of a “yellow light” on your pathetic movie blogger ratings system.

Who is this?

I am Jeff Albertson, owner of The Android’s Dungeon and Baseball Card Shop at 507 Main Street in Springfield, hours 10 to 6 every day except on the opening day of new Star Wars filums. Then, we are closed out of respect. You may call me Comic Book Guy.

Ah. And you can see my computer as I’m writing my review?

As founder and president of the Society for the Protection of Classic Computer Games, I hacked into your totally unprotected system after the dreaded Tomb Raider incident of 2001 when you denigrated the text adventure and immortal masterpiece Zork. I have had unfettered access to your system since then.

Well, that’s creepy.

This is of no concern to me. I do not consider myself bound by societal norms of propriety. I do consider myself bound to inform you, however, that there is a new version of Quicken available that fixes the loan-amortization bug.

Yeah, great. What do you want?

As I explained, I must vigorously protest the usage of a “yellow light” on your pathetic movie blogger ratings system.

Well, if you would have waited just a nanosecond there, Creepy Boy, you would have seen that I was going to go on to remind readers that the yellow light is not entirely a bad thing, that it still means devoted fans will find the film a worthwhile experience on the big screen. A yellow light is not necessarily a diss.

Ah, you misunderstand me, of course. I am not suggesting that The Simpsons Movie deserves a “green light.” I am suggesting that it should be slapped with a “red light.” No true fan of The Simpsons would consider this a worthy trip to the multiplex.

That’s ridiculous! This is very funny, especially for fans of the TV show, and especially in the first half hour or so. Oh man: the smackdowns of American idiocy — in the realms of entertainment, politics, cultural attitudes, everything — were coming so fast, and I was laughing so hard at them, that I couldn’t keep up writing them all down for Totally Quotable.

You, my dear, sound like a perfect nerd.

I am! And I’m proud of it.

Then you should be aware that the 87 minutes wasted on this pitiable excuse for a movie — 103 minutes with advertisements, trivia quizzes a toddler could solve, and trailers — could be more productively spent honing one’s battle skills in World of Warcraft. The price of admission could purchase several comic books.

That’s true. But that same could be said for any movie. For Attack of the Clones, for instance.

You speak blasphemy, nerdly wench.

Everything’s a tradeoff. Maybe it’s just me, but it was good to see Groening and Co. back on their game again — it feels like it’s been a while since the TV show made me laugh this hard. I admit I haven’t made a point of watching the show religiously in the last few years: it’s been so hit-or-miss that it hasn’t been worth the effort to time-shift it when I’m not home.

Ah, so you admit that it is beneath fans to acknowledge this franchise at all anymore.

That’s not what I said, not at all. Look, would you not go see a Radioactive Man movie — even if it was totally kick-ass and starred Rainier Wolfcastle and was directed by George Lucas — just because the last couple of issues of the comic weren’t that great?

Rainier Wolfcastle would be a terrible Radioactive Man. At my blog, Grumblings of a Comic Book Guy, I have written an extensive, 15-part series on the potential casting of a potential Radioactive Man movie, and I–

Okay, but you get my point, right? If you’ve been missing good Simpsons episodes, well, here’s one right in front of you. I mean, sure, it is just a giant episode of the show, and for anyone who isn’t already a fan, it seems unlikely that this will be of any interest. But this is a sip of water in the desert for fans who’ve been feeling a little let down of late.

So you are suggesting, then, that the treacherous Matt Groening has been expending all his “mojo” onto this movie, and neglecting the TV show?

No, that’s not what I’m suggesting at all. It is a bit of a mystery that this movie could be so funny when the show has not always been so lately. I don’t have an answer to that conundrum. And it is true that the movie, after that first brilliant half hour, falls into something a bit more mundane. That first half hour is pure genius, like a pop culture pinball bouncing around and hitting as many targets as it possibly can, but once it all settles into the story — actual narrative — about Homer’s stupidity driving his family away at last, and his quest to win them back, it’s all only moderately amusing.

And still she defends the abandonment of fans.

Oh, come on! You have to admit that the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon that opens the movie is outrageously funny!

Ahem. I have not seen the film.

No, I didn’t think so.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for irreverent humor throughout

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • Florsie G

    I’m worried now.

    I thought this was going to bring to life the Simpsons, but now I’m worried. Maybe this is the last nail on the coffin.

    But well, I’ll have to check this out by myself. Tomorrow leaving the cinema I’ll know how bad it is.

  • Andrew Douglas

    I think the reason why it’s a bit funnier than the TV show (which is still funny enough to keep me watching, although some episodes are a little weaker than others) is because eleven legendary writers worked on it, most of which have retired from the show or taken other duties.

  • Joe

    I agree with Douglas, I heard it was a veritable pantheon of writers who worked on this. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have new(ish) little on in my family these days, going to the movies is kind of out of the question, so I will have to wait for the DVD :(

  • INotI

    I took the Colbert route and added “New Simpsons” to my Dead to Me list about five or six years ago and now refuse to acknowledge that anything past Season Nine even exists, and I’m still going to go see this out of loyalty, if nothing else, to the show that more or less defined my sense of humour and general worldview.

  • WCG

    I’m stoked to see the film and a little sad that it’s apparently not a complete work of genius, but maybe part of me is a little relieved that Groening and co. didn’t blow their wad on a movie. It would be one thing if this were a wrap-up of the series, but the show hasn’t ended. Groening couldn’t make any lasting impact on characters because that would affect the show, static in its nature (some exceptions such as Sideshow Bob and Maude Flanders’ death notwithstanding), and clearly he prefers Springfield to stay generally the same because it is easier to both write and syndicate it that way. The final Simpson’s episode should be the place to make the big statement, break barriers, marry off Moe, kill Grandpa, retire Krusty, whatever. They had better do it soon, too.

  • Moe

    Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein are the reason the Simpsons took a dive at aroudn 2000. They took off to do Mission Hill, Futurama.

    Anything they touch turns to gold and anything they leave, into turd.

    I’ll wait for the DVD.

  • MaryAnn

    It would be one thing if this were a wrap-up of the series

    That would have been ideal. This movie does dramatically alter Springfield, but then things, of course, have to be set to rights again by the end. It could have been much more interesting if that hadn’t been necessary.

  • Jennifer

    Oh, I don’t know. I was kind of “eh” and going to happily wait for it on DVD, but a friend had an extra ticket for the midnight showing, so I ended up clapping and whooping with the rest of the goons. It was much much better than I thought it would be.

  • Eric

    Man, how much of a simpson’s nerd am I…. halfway through reading the word Hel-looo, I switched to comic book guy’s voice in my head…

    I’ll see this, but you’re comment about not bothering to time-shift to catch the show is spot on. I find myself with reruns of futurama, and really feel like a movie for the simpsons could have capped the series a few years ago, and we could have shifted to futurama, with all its hilarity and potential.

    Damn you fox….for firefly as well…

  • I feel duty-bound to inform you guys that Futurama is coming back, both on TV and in a series of direct-to-DVD movies. Yes, really.

  • MBI

    ***for anyone who isn’t already a fan, it seems unlikely that this will be of any interest.***

    I’m still trying to parse this sentence after reading it like five times. “Isn’t already a fan”? What’s that supposed to mean? People in the world who AREN’T already a fan of the Simpsons? That’s just a gibberish sentence. It’s funny when nonsen accidentally gets printed on this site, you really need to proofread more.

  • MBI

    *Nonsense, not nonsen. I guess we both need to proofread more.

  • Greg

    I like Mary-Anne’s witty style of review for this, but she’s correct to say the movie’s first half hour is best and the rest is pretty average. I suggest waiting for DVD. If this is the best the 11 ‘greatest’ writers of the series could come up with, it confirms the view the show was comedy gold in it’s first 9 or 10 seasons, but has been done for the money ever since. I think the comments below, made by Empire magazine’s review, hit the nail on the head.

    ‘The Simpsons Movie has been 10 years in the making. During this tricky decade, the one factor the crew of 11 writers (their finest) had trouble settling on, is how a movie version of the half-hour Springfield spins, would be different. After all, why buy a ticket for something you get ad infinitum on the box ? 80 minutes after Itchy nukes Scratchy on the moon (the literal opening salvo), you realise the problem may have defeated them. The Movie is no more than a mediocre episode stretched like taffy till it splits and there’s not one truly great gag to speak of.

    How did something so light and confident become so lumbering and unsure of itself ? Everyone is trying too hard and getting nowhere. Lamed, as the later episodes have been, by an overt political agenda, the film so bangs the drum for Al Gore’s eco-message, it borders on polemic. Saving the planet may be vital, but not at the expense of Homer’s sublime buffoonery please. The series is at it’s best, when satirising the intricacies of ordinary life — aim smaller, hit bigger.

    With more time on their hands, everything seems to work against itself. There are odd pauses, mistimed punchlines — the lovely jazzy rhythms of the old episodes becoming stilted and soggy. Worse still, the characters are shadows of their old yellow selves. Homer by necessity the brainless centre of the story, never properly reaches his true absurdist extremes. There’s also the stunning fact that, between 11 of surely the funniest writers in America, no one could come up with a good story. Springfield sealed in a dome is about it, but even then nothing is made of the town’s collapse into anarchy, while in not-breaking-news-at-all, Homer has to learn to appreciate his family. Again.

    It is a depressing experience to rain on this particularly beloved parade. So massive is the series achievement, it’s like punching a best friend in the mush. In pop cultural terms Groening and team are artists, the animation equivalent of Martin Scorsese — imagine the likes of him delivering something so bereft of inspiration. You chuckle here and there, you enjoy the animation (given a bit more pep and computery dimension for the big screen), but the moment it takes off never comes. This isn’t the worst film of the summer, just the biggest waste. Then, perhaps that’s the problem ; The Simpsons never needed to be a movie’.

  • chunkylover54

    OK, I’m going to come off as the biggest Simpson dork, but here goes.

    There’s an episode of the Simpsons where Homer does the voice of Poochy, a new character added to the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon. During that episode Homer goes to a mini-convention at the Android’s Dungeon.

    During a Q&A session, one nerd asks the following:
    “In an episode of Itchy and Scratchy you have Itchy playing Scratchy’s ribs like a xylophone, but you have one rib producing two different notes. Do you, ah, expect us to believe this is some kind of magical rib?”

    In the same spirit of that question, I have to make a comment about your review.

    Ranier Wolfcastle did play Radioactive Man. (And not the campy 70s version with Paul Lynde.) Milhous was cast as Fallout Boy.

    So… Comic Book Guy wouldn’t write about who should be cast as Radioactive Man, unless they were going to remake a new Radioactive Man movie.

    Sorry to be such a Simpsons dork. In the mean time, I’ll be at the Hi & Lois signing at the colosseum if you wished to respond to my comment.

    Keep up the good work. I usually check your reviews before seeing a flick. I’ve watched Lucas trash the original Star Wars trilogy, I’ll watch the Simpsons movie in the theatre.

    Cheers.

  • Josh

    The movie is fucking hilarious even to those who have never watched a full episode of the TV Show, like myself. Frankly, I never found the show that amusing. I thought the film was one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. Certainly ranks up there with BORAT. I take offense to MaryAnn claiming that a non fan of the show will not find anything enjoyable about this film. In my opinion, it does a brilliant job of crossing that barrier so both fans and non Simpsonphiles can love it.

  • JT

    I didn’t like it and I really thought I would. The jokes just weren’t that good, and except for a few scenes like the one where Moe gets robbed during a blackout, and the dome being placed on Springfield – I didn’t laugh out loud. It was only amusing enough to make me smile a few times. Disappointing, really. There were some heartfelt moments, but nothing comparable to say, the ending of And Maggie Makes Three. Wait for DVD is about right, because if you’re a fan of the show, you have to follow the characters. But it’s not worth a trip to the theater.

  • Josh

    When an ad for So You Think Can Dance was placed into the film, I don’t think I have ever heard an audience laugh so hard

  • JT

    When an ad for So You Think Can Dance was placed into the film, I don’t think I have ever heard an audience laugh so hard

    That was a bit amusing, but an obvious joke. As James Berardinelli mentioned in his review, the targets in this movie are easy – religion, environmentalists, government stupidity. FOX is even easier. The Simpsons themselves have mocked FOX, as have Family Guy. Matt Groening was on The Daily Show a week or so ago and he took a jab at FOX. So by the time I saw it in the movie, it didn’t really pack a punch.

  • MBI

    ***Lamed, as the later episodes have been, by an overt political agenda, the film so bangs the drum for Al Gore’s eco-message, it borders on polemic. ***

    *cocks eyebrow*

    Right. And “Airplane!” is an angry message movie about Reagan-era safety deregulation.

  • MaryAnn

    Comic Book Guy wouldn’t write about who should be cast as Radioactive Man, unless they were going to remake a new Radioactive Man movie.

    In the spirit of William Shatner on SNL, get a life! :->

    I take offense to MaryAnn claiming that a non fan of the show will not find anything enjoyable about this film.

    Knock yourself out, dude. Be as offended as you like.

    I’m glad you liked the film, though.

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