Monday, July 30, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

Hey, didn't I say on Saturday that I would write more about the San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday? Well, that was a big fat lie, obviously, since here it is Monday, and I still won't even get to it today. Because instead I'm writing about The Simpsons Movie, which I saw yesterday with Ian, who also went to the Comic-Con.

I laughed a lot. An awful lot. There are many truly hilarious moments. Such as when Ralph Wiggum sees a naked Bart skateboard past him, and says, "I like men now." Or when his father, Chief Wiggum, eats donuts off the end of his gun and almost blows his head off. So, with that as the benchmark: the movie was a success.

And yet, on reflection, it's the ways in which the movie didn't work that I keep dwelling on, and, since I like to complain, I will elaborate.

My primary problem lies in the fact that practically every single plot element is recycled from the TV show. It's like a feature-length version of the South Park "Simpsons Already Did It" episode.

--The Simpsons travel to a location outside of Springfield ("The Simpsons go to Japan!" "The Simpsons go to Brazil!" "The Simpsons go to New York City!"). In the movie, it's "The Simpsons go to Alaska!"

--Homer and Marge have marriage problems. Probably the single most overused plot from the TV series. At least in this iteration, it generates one genuinely touching monologue from Marge, but still.

--Lisa gets a boyfriend. How many boyfriends has she had now? She's eight, for Pete's sake! Why do they keep trying to give her boyfriends??

--Springfield is destroyed. (It's not destroyed destroyed, but you know what I mean. For all intents and purposes.) I can immediately think of two other times this has happened: it was flooded, and it was undermined by tunnels full of garbage. It's probably happened a lot more than that.

--Homer has a drug-induced vision quest, which reveals he really loves Marge. Well, duh. At least in the series, his guide was a coyote with Johnny Cash's voice. This time it's a completely nonsensical deus ex machina. With big boobs.

And so on. It gets down to incredibly specific repetitions, such as "Bart becomes a Flanders," or "Albert Brooks is a supervillain." At times, it made the movie feel like a greatest hits compilation ("Hey, they're jumping over Springfield Gorge again!") rather than an original creation.

And the movie can't quite pick an era of the TV show it most wants to emulate. At times, it harkens back to the very earliest seasons, with overly-earnest (and often underly-humorous) emotional character moments; at times, it's more like the most recent seasons, in which character development and plot advancement are completely abandoned in favor of random absurdity and flights of fancy. The best seasons of the TV series showed us that a balance can be reached between the two extremes; the movie, sadly, fails to achieve that balance -- hence, the uneven result.

Still, you get to see Homer flipping the bird with both hands at an angry mob, and you get to see Otto taking a deep hit off a bong, so the movie's got that going for it over the TV show. It's not a great movie; it's not a movie that justifies the "18 years in the making" hype. But it's pretty damn funny.

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