There are certain things one is unable to speak of, provided one is a geek, without getting personal. Star Wars is one of two for me. The Simpsons is the other…
I question authority figures, huge groups, organized religion, fast food or any politician. I don’t trust any group dynamic that says “if we stay together everything will be alright,” don’t believe in the sanctity of the American family and I LOATHE children.
Where do you think I GOT all this from? The show that took on God, the government, the home, pop culture, society at large, the network that showed it and even its own fans. Were I not introduced to The Simpsons at such a tender age, I might be well-adjusted and normal, but not as smart nor nearly as fulfilled. It’s been on TV almost as long as I’ve been alive. For some of you, it may have taken up this last half of your existences. And for more of you still, you may have never lived in a world without The Simpsons. When that show goes down, it’s gonna be like FDR dying back in the forties, no matter how much you may quibble about declining quality. That damn show’s gonna leave a mighty big hole.
I say all this to say that for any Simpsons fan, judging The Simpsons Movie is almost impossible to do on its own merit. We aren’t going to compare it to other movies. We’re going to compare it to the show at its high point. It’s a shame that the show at its high point was the high point of humor in all the annals of television and even radio, now that I think about it.
So I must say that by Simpsons standards, The Simpsons Movie, directed by David Silverman, is… Good. VERY good, even. It ain’t great and it ain’t the pinnacle of comedy Godliness that the first few seasons were, but it’s funny enough. It’s like watching a Simpsons episode now. The glory days are long behind, but it will still kung-fu your ass through a wall and have enough time left over to bend Peter Griffin all the way backwards to jam his head up his own ass.
But I’m not judging this film by Simpsons standards. Being as I paid $8.50 to see it on a big screen, I’m judging it by regular movie standards, and The Simpsons Movie is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a theater in months. For me personally, I’m still shocked that a movie I had high expectations of this summer actually DELIVERED on its promises.
Do I need to go into the plot? I will, though only grudgingly. Homer dooms the whole town. The environment and a PERFECT Albert Brooks as the evil head of the EPA are involved.
I don’t need to go into the plot because the plot is irrelevant. All that matters are the characters and exquisitely honed latticework of jokes, gags, and cultural references. But the ingenious nature of The Simpsons Movie brings the laughs faster and more energetically than anything that’s been going for 18 years has any right to bring them. The Simpsons Movie has a whopping ELEVEN WRITERS to its name. Normally this is a sure sign of too many cooks in the kitchen, (how a 74-minute movie like Scary Movie 2 needed six writers is still astounding to me) but I get the image in my head of executive producer James L. Brooks and show creator Matt Groening cracking a whip over the other nine writers screaming “MAKE THIS FUNNIER! MUSH! MUSH!” What’s more, The Simpsons Movie feels writerly and thought out, and not stuck in that improvisation fad that’s already getting boring as hell in the multiplex.
The biggest reason both show and movie are so funny is because of the tireless and sound work from the voice cast. Of course the standout, as it always is, is Dan Castellaneta as one Homer Jay Simpson. I remember in high school when my drama teacher played a five second clip of Homer from the show and asked us how many emotions he displayed in that five seconds. We counted twenty-four. And Castellaneta is as good now as he was then.
But what separates The Simpsons as a show (and comes shining through in the film) from good-though-inferior animated work like Family Guy and Aqua Teen Hunger Force is the level of genuine emotion and heart. Granted there is a heapin’ helpin’ of irony to be found in The Simpsons Movie, but it’s the sizzle, not the steak. We wouldn’t have stuck with the Simpson family for so long if they were just cardboard ciphers that only served as mere context for a cutaway to some random tangent. We LIKE these people. And they come off as exactly that. PEOPLE. And you can tell James L. Brooks, who not only co-wrote and produced the movie, but won a screenplay Oscar for Terms of Endearment , had his hands all over this flick. There comes a point where Homer and Marge are yet again at an impasse in their marriage and it will break your heart to watch it. Any fan of The Simpsons knows that Marge threatens to leave Homer almost every fifth show. But when was the last time you thought Marge actually didn’t plan on coming back? No movie this silly has a right to cut this deep.
It’s well-rounded, to be sure. But the important thing is that it’s hilarious and more than any reasonable Simpsons fan (and you know at least a couple, if you aren’t one yourself) could ask for. This is the part where any other reviewer would say “Best. Movie. Ever.”
And if you were expecting that from the likes of me, I must tell you to “Go. Fuck. Yourself.”
But I leave you on this. Though I think this flick is timeless, if you want to laugh this weekend in a movie theater, you will have no other choice than The Simpsons Movie. It’s either that or … I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
I trust you’ll do the honorable thing.
**** out of 4
Read the Geeks of Doom news coverage round-up for The Simpsons Movie HERE.