Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Dan Castellaneta………. Homer Simpson (voice)
Nancy Cartwright……….Bart Simpson/Maggie Simpson (voice)
Yeardley Smith……….Lisa Simpson (voice)
Julie Kavner……….Marge Simpson (voice)
When it comes to American television, no show in the last 30 years has had the sort of juggernaut status that The Simpsons has gained. Having gone on the air when Fox was a young network that would throw virtually anything on the air, The Simpsons was an “outside the box” attempt at Fox at gaining traction in an era that also featured Herman’s Head, Get a Life, In Living Color and other shows that helped change the landscape of television. It would lead to other animated films with a more mature focus to be broadcast in primetime. Fox’s unorthodox method of choosing shows led to several hits and The Simpsons remains the biggest of that era. So it’s odd that nearly 20 years has elapsed since the show’s debut in that a feature film would be released well after the show’s peak in the mid 1990s.
The Simpsons Movie follows the tales of the clan in what is essentially a 90 minute version of a typical episode. Homer (Dan Castellaneta) helps to pollute the local lake to absurdly toxic levels, causing the federal government to place a dome on their town of Springfield. When the family flees to Alaska, and then returns when discovering the federal government’s attempt to destroy the town so that all evidence is vaporized, the family has to try to save the day. For a film based on a show, it’s surprisingly well written.
For most television shows that have inspired movies, either the source material is changed radically to make it more cinematic (Miami Vice) or the film panders too much to the most ardent fans of the series and ends up being uninteresting unless one’s a fan of the show (Tenacious D and the recent Reno: 911! film comes to mind especially). The Simpsons Movie manages to straddle this fine line; the characters and overall tone from the show are still evident and haven’t been changed radically to fit the new medium. The film’s script, with 11 writers credited, has been written in such a way that it feels like a film experience while capturing the essence of the show. It’s a screwball comedy with lots of gags per minute, never lingering while extending the show’s relatively quick pace to fit a 90 minute format. It has an understanding of itself as a movie while also being a part of The Simpsons universe.
The film’s sense of humor is also relatively strong as well. While at times it panders to being closer to the television show, it’s interesting to see that the film has been designed to be much more universal. There aren’t lots of gags around current events; it’s easy to see the film’s intent. It’s meant to not be dated for future generations, which is admirable in a way. 10 years from now the humor will still be funny because it’s not lampooning things that are considered hip now. It’s also incredibly funny as well; in a year where there have been few comedies that actually have been funny, The Simpsons Movie stands out amongst them because it’s a comedy that shockingly is actually quite funny. The film has plenty of hit or miss gags, a good chunk of them that miss, but it doesn’t linger on jokes that don’t work for stretches of time either. The film even parodies Fox itself a couple of times for tremendous effect.
While the idea behind a movie for The Simpsons seems about 10 years too late, there’s no doubt that perhaps waiting the additional decade would bring out a more seasoned staff and film than rushing one into production would’ve years ago.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):