Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007)

The biggest (and funniest) joke in The Simpsons Movie happens in the start of the movie. We see the typical Itchy and Scratchy routine (the cat and mouse are murderous astronauts with grave political ambitions), followed by the shadow of a grumpy Homer, as part of the audience of the cartoon movie within this cartoon movie, complaining about paying for a movie that is free on television. He then points at us, the audience; branding us as idiots for that exact reason. The punchline of the joke is this: Homer, the most recognizable dumb guy in American pop culture, has just passed the idiot torch to us.

That's basically my biggest gripe with this movie (and all other movies that sprouting from the successes of television series, like The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (Stephen Hillenburg, 2004), all those Nickelodeon big-screen reincarnations, with the possible exception of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)). The movie can be accurately described as an overblown, beautified version of an episode. The good thing here is that the film didn't lose a lot of what made the series funny and successful in the first place --- the visual wit, irreverent jokes, and farcical family humor. The bad thing is that I've seen countless episodes in the series' many years of existence that are funnier and wittier.

The town of Springfield finds itself inside a giant glass dome when the EPA chief deems it the most polluted town in America. At the center of the catastrophe is Homer and his newfound pal, a horridly adorable pig. His other family members have their own problems to bear: Marge is having second thoughts on her marriage with Homer; Bart is also having second thoughts on his being a son of Homer; and Lisa's found her sutiable boytoy, an environmentally Irish boy-next-door.

The Simpsons' bright yellow skin is a joy to watch in wide screen and decorated with the hand-drawn over computer-generated visuals. Their adventure, however, is much more a clever sketch than anything else. Part of the sketch are the much-advertised satirical goof-offs of the current, and the political: Schwarzenegger becomes a nit witted president of America (something that doesn't really deviate from the truth), Lisa emulates Al Gore to dazed and hungry Springfielders, and Grandpa gets a spiritual revelation while attending a pointless church service.

The satire however is too quick, too insignificant to really matter. The movie boils down to Homer's larger-than-life mission to rescue the town and win his family back. The movie rides on the investment of goodwill and pop culture legitimacy the animated sitcom has; it is also the film's burden. The sitcom has been less effective during the recent seasons (especially when more formidable and brasher adult-themed cartoons are populating television), and the movie seems to be the ideal cure to revive the faded popularity of the series and to re-introduce audiences to the hyperbolic middle American family. The movie's loaded with chuckle-inducing gags, but it's less monumental than something so many years in the making. I'd rank this movie 57th (or any other arbitrary number) among all The Simpsons episodes I've seen; it should've been number one.

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