The Simpsons Movie Review
Of all the big summer blockbusters, The Simpsons Movie must be the most eagerly anticipated, and certainly the one we have waited longest for. It was 20 years ago that our favourite yellow family made their debut on prime time American TV, as an insert on The Tracey Ullman Show (whatever happened to her?), before being spun off into their own record breaking world. Now, 400 episodes later (eclipsing Scooby Doo) and after years of speculation, their big screen adventure is with us, but the question hanging over the movie, like a radioactive cloud over Springfield , is have the film makers been true to their original creation or have they sold out to Hollywood? Luckily for die hard fans of the show the answer to the latter part of the question is a resounding NO. Their creations have been treated with the respect they deserve and very few concessions to cinematic fashions have been made. Think of any recent TV shows transferred to the big screen and you will come up with a long list of disappointments. Starsky and Hutch became a slapstick comedy. The Avengers turned into a fiasco. Thunderbirds turned puppets into people. Why?? Sgt Bilko, well the least said the better. What the creators of the Simpsons realised is that people are coming to see the film because they love the characters and its anarchic sense of the absurd, so apart from the running time, what else needs changing?
The format of the film is much like a regular episode, with Homer bringing the family to within an inch of meltdown after turning Springfield into an environmental disaster zone and being lynched by its residents after the town is hermetically sealed off from the rest of the U.S. in its own giant dome. The Simpson clan manage to get to safety in Alaska where Homer has an epiphany, sees the error of his ways and returns to save his home town.
The first twenty minutes are admittedly the high point, before the story kicks in proper, with sight gags aplenty (you really do need to see it twice to appreciate them all) and the unforgettable sight of Bart skateboarding naked through the town after being dared by his dad, and yes folks, a full frontal Bart is included. It’s also during this section that Homer adopts a pet pig, which provides possibly the biggest laugh in the whole film. Without giving it away, let’s just say that you will never be able to listen to the old Spiderman theme tune with a straight face again. The animation is razor sharp (try and see it on a digital screen if you can) which lifts it slightly above your average TV episode, and we can only be thankful that they didn’t decide to go with CGI or, heaven forbid, live action! Guest stars, so much a staple of the later episodes, are kept to a bare minimum. Albert Brooks is wonderfully slimy as the despotic Russ Cargill, (and also has one of the films funniest lines, after being told that he has gone mad with power he replies “ Have you tried going mad without power? No one listens to you”) and the only other noticeable star name pops up out of the blue and I won’t spoil it for you here, but stars don’t come much bigger.
The film does have its faults of course (well, name a film that doesn’t) and some of them do tend to stand out. In what Simpsons' universe would Bart cling to Flanders for parental advice and guidance? Lisa discovers love, but the storyline is never properly developed, at one time giving the impression that Bono is the voice of her beau, but once the real story kicks in, he is kicked into touch. Its biggest crime, however, is in not giving any of the supporting players any real screen time. Comic Book Guy turns up to help with a little exposition and Flanders has a small role to play, but everyone else takes a back seat to the main family. Maybe this is the way it should be, and quite possibly a sequel will see this rectified, but to not give Mr Burns more screen time is a crime that is hard to stomach.
In the end, Simpsons fans should come away from this very satisfied. Their favourite family haven’t sold out, and, according to Maggie, a sequel could well be on the way. Of all the big movies released so far this year, this is by far the most successful and the one least likely to disappoint. And if you don’t agree with me, you can eat my shorts.