Here's a short review for The Simpson Movie. It's very, very funny, and though it's extremely silly and cartoony like the present incarnation of the show, it has also brought back the sweetness and the warmth of the earlier era (say, the first 5 seasons).
Still reading? Okay. Here's why it's so good:
|James L. Brooks||screenplay|
|Joel Cohen||consultant writer|
|John Frink||consultant writer|
|Tim Long||consultant writer|
|Michael Price||consultant writer|
These are the men who created "The Simpsons" as we know it today. Getting them back to collaborate on the film was the only way to ensure that it would work, and they have all risen to the challenge, composing what's sure to be among the year's most funny, rewatchable comedies.
I've been a huge "Simpsons" fan for what feels like my entire life. (I was 11 when the show made its debut on December 17, 1989.) Like a lot of long-time "Simpsons" fans, I still enjoy watching the show, but it no longer feels like essential viewing. Rather than a full 30 minutes of hilarity (most of the classic episodes manage to get at least one or two good jokes in every 60 seconds), recent episodes are easy-going, enjoyable-enough entertainment punctuated by one or two really sharp gags. Still, it's "The Simpsons," which for me makes it comforting and familiar even if it isn't a non-stop Kavalcade of Komedy. What I'm saying is, I no longer feel pressed to memorize entire episodes as I once did. But that's probably healthy...
I doubt I'll be committing the film to memory any time soon, but the experience of watching it in a theater was the most fun I've had watching "The Simpsons" in a long, long time. Sure, some of this is bound to be the excitement of opening night in a crowded theater full of enthusiastic fans, applauding after particularly good jokes and singing along to Homer's "Spider-Pig" anthem. Watching the film on my computer alone will be the true test of its staying power. But it just feels right, feels like "The Simpsons," from leaping over Springfield Gorge to Bart wilding through the center of town on his skateboard.
A few of the more inspired decisions:
- Bringing back Albert Brooks to voice the film's villain. He's one of what I'd consider the three All-Star "Simpsons" guest voices. The first is obviously Phil Hartman, who voiced one of the greatest characters in "Simpsons" history, lawyer Lionel Hutz, along with actor Troy McClure, monorail shyster Lyle Langley and too many others to name. Second would have to be Kelsey Grammar, whose Sideshow Bob stars in my favorite-ever episode, the Emmy-nominated "Cape Feare." And third is "A. Brooks," responsible for self-help guru Brad Goodman, Bond villain Hank Scorpio (from another Best Episode Ever contender, "You Only Move Twice.") Brooks is awesome here as EPA chief Russ Cargill.
- Making the movie PG-13. It feels different and a bit more risque, particularly one completely ingenious shot I would not dream of revealing here, but never dirty or inappropriate for a family audience. This is not "Family Guy." This is the show "Family Guy" secretly wishes it could be, amusing without having to rely on '80s references and innuendo. (I'm still entertained by "Family Guy" in fits and spurts, but it's hardly on the level of "Simpsons" or "South Park.")
- Improving the animation...but not too much. There's obviously been some attempts to update the show's basic 2-D style for contemporary audiences, but it's generally kept in the background or at the height of action sequences. It's "The Simpsons," but smoother and drawn with greater attention to detail.
- Not getting all meta. There's an opening sequence, recreating the opening sequence of the show but BIGGER because this is a HOLLYWOOD MOVIE, two or three self-referential jokes in the film and some extra gags thrown in during the credits but that's it. It's not a musical or an adventure story or a crazy chase. In fact, the plot unfolds exactly as an episode would - even starting with a misadventure that only somewhat relates to the main plot. (In this case, Grandpa revealing an omen and Homer obtaining a pet pig.)
It doesn't try to bring back every classic character or revisit locations from much-loved episodes. They've just ported the show into movie form, and basically made a 90 minute "Simpsons" episode with better animation. Done and done.