“The Simpsons Movie” is, in a word, hilarious.
I had a number of fears when I first heard they were finally bringing the animated television sitcom to the big screen.
Frequently, when a half-hour long sitcom does an hour long “special”, the longer format is made up of two episodes strung together. Would “The Simpsons Movie” be simply three episodes strung together to masquerade as a feature length film? Thankfully, it isn’t. They have taken a larger theme, the pollution of the environment, and give each of the characters an overall piece of this main story while they deal with problems and situations of their own. Most of these are also connected to the environment. This allows them to tie all of the stories together and to give all of our favorite characters a piece of the pie.
Would the film reflect the quality of the series currently or actually be funny?
The environment? “Well, that sounds awfully “After School Special” you might say. You would be wrong. One of the things I love about the first, oh say, ten years of the series, is how madcap the series was. Big emphasis on ‘was’. One moment, the family would be doing one activity, lampooning a handful of different pop culture references, then they would be on to another madcap thing, lampooning a whole different set of pop culture references. Better yet, the story connected these moments Now, the story movies from point A to point B with a couple of jokes thrown in.
In “Movie”, they use the environment as a framework allowing all of the characters in the family and the entire town of Springfield, to interact and highlight their comic personalities. The story drives the film, allowing the characters to bring their own personalities to the dilemma. This brought back memories of some of my favorite episodes, episodes in which Homer & Marge visit a candy convention and Homer becoming the poster child for sexual perverts everywhere, or Homer deciding he doesn’t want to go to church and starting his own religion something God apparently approves of, or Lisa’s need for braces driving Homer to become the head of his union and going head to head with Mr. Burns. There are so many classic episodes of “The Simpsons” it would be impossible to list them all. What do these classic episodes have in common? They take no prisoners. One moment, they might be making fun of Hollywood, the next religion, and it all works because they have created a story that can handle wildly divergent ideas. “Movie” follows this formula. Using the environment as an overall theme, they take jabs at religion, celebrity spokespeople, Hollywood, politics and “An Inconvenient Truth”.
“Movie” is hilarious and has a lot of laughs packed into its 90 minute running time. But it isn’t a laugh a minute. There are a couple of moments when the story takes over and the filmmakers try to make Marge and Homer’s relationship dramatic. These moments work, but they cut through the comedy like a knife through butter.
The filmmakers have taken the familiar landscape of Springfield and our favorite television characters and given them a suitable big screen upgrade. They have maintained the largely 2-D look and feel of the series but have given it a larger depth. Some scenes have striking shadows added to give the film a more artistic look. The family travels to a new state and this area is depicted in a beauty that would not have been possible with the constraints of a television schedule or budget.
They have even incorporated the use of CGI. Much like in a Disney film, the animators use CGI to control the crowds or to give the action a little more fluidity in certain scenes. In one scene, the camera tracks through an angry mob and this was done with the aid of CGI. The characters are also given a slightly different appearance. The lines used to draw them appear thicker, giving them a slightly more rounded quality.
“Movie” tries to incorporate all of the characters at some point or another and this gives the entire great voice cast an opportunity to show off their skills. Because this is a feature length film, the story explores the relationships between certain characters more fully and allows the voice actors to show off why they have helped to make the series so memorable for so many years.
The story? The story is really good. But to talk about any of it would be to spoil part of the fun, some of the jokes, some of the surprise. You’ll have to see it yourself, to experience all of the fun.
“The Simpsons Movie” is a great summer movie, with a lot of laughs for both adults and kids. It is sure to convert a large group of viewers into fans and reenergize some die-hard fans who have become disappointed with the series.