Movie Review: The Simpsons Movie

The local paper’s review of the Simpsons Movie stated that it was just like the show, only longer. After reading it I said to my wife, “I hope it is like the show during the early seasons, and not so much like the last few years.”

It is pretty obvious I am a fan of the show. I talk about it all the time, I quote it regularly, I’ve pretty much based my life philosophy around Homer Simpson, and I practically reviewed the entire 18th season (sorry that review is no longer available, Mat).

When the Simpsons are good, there is nothing better on television, and even when they are bad they are good for a few laughs. Unfortunately, since about season 8 they have been steadily moving towards the latter end of that statement. The show has moved from a cutting-edge satire with an underlying heart that made it not only incredibly hilarious but a rock-solid piece of storytelling. These days it hangs on by throwing a million gags out at once.

Sometimes those gags are brilliant, but all too often they make me laugh and then immediately forget them. And the show really lacks the heart it used to have. There is still a lot of cheap sentiment thrown in, but the storylines are so off the wall and jagged, that the sentiment falls flat.

Unfortunately, the movie is more like the last few seasons than the first few. Oh, I laughed and laughed heartily many a time, but nothing has really stayed with me. I didn’t walk out of the theatre repeating my favorite jokes, and now two days later, there is hardly anything memorable about it at all.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I laughed a lot and it was fun to see my favorite four-fingered cartoon characters on the big screen, it’s just that it could have been so much more. On television, every season I hope that the Simpsons will turn it around and become brilliant again. Every season I am ultimately disappointed. But I keep coming back. I keep watching.

Even though I knew the movie wouldn’t be as brilliant as it could be I kept hoping that they would bring in old writers and they would come up with something remarkable. Like the longer deadlines and the bigger budgets would somehow improve the quality.

I will say it looked beautiful. They say they used traditional animation for most of it but used some CGI for the backgrounds. Whatever they did the Simpsons looked better than they ever have before, without looking too improved or big-budgeted (like in the Halloween special, “Homer³.”)

I was slightly surprised that they didn’t go overboard with the freedom that being away from television censors allows. There were a couple of bigger curse words and a funny if inappropriate moment where Bart shows more than his famous naked tooshie. But they could have done much more yet somehow showed some surprising restraint in that front.

Lots of main characters were left out, and while I can’t blame them for not trying to throw every single character in for a one-liner, I still wish Moe and Principal Skinner had more of a presence. Using Arnold Schwarzenegger as President may be a better gag, but I think it would have been more fitting to have used Rainier Wolfcastle for the part (as he’s the Simpsons parody of Arnold anyway.)

I could go on. There are lots of things to quibble with, but mostly they are beside the point. The Simpsons are finally on the big screen. For fans this is a big deal, and they do deliver lots of laughs. For those who find themselves loving more recent seasons, this will be a real treat. For those wishing they’d stop signing contracts, you can expect some laughs, but mostly disappointment.

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