‘The Simpsons Movie’ brings the animated family to the big screen
So why has it taken over 18 seasons to bring one of television’s most popular and enduring animated series to the big screen? Who cares? D’oh! After 400 episodes, two dozen Emmys and a reputation for poking fun at our culture (while in the process becoming part of it), “The Simpsons” has become the animated movie worth watching, if only to see Marge’s beehive hairdo looking like a skyscraper on the huge screen, and to finally experience a feature-length story instead of the 22 minutes that was available on the small screen.
I’ve been a fan of the quirky series way back when it was a mere five-minute short on “The Tracy Ullman Show.” It didn’t take long, though, for the animated counter-culture show to receive its own time slot, and he rest is TV history.
“The Simpsons” has taken on so many issues and topics that its creator, Matt Groening, took some heat for its stand on political issues, gay issues and alternative power, most notably Homer’s workplace within the nuclear industry. The powers that be had “asked” that Groening and his staff tone down some of the nuclear rhetoric, so what do they do? They created Binky the three-eyed fish (from Season 2) to illustrate the effects of nuclear waste heading downstream. I was forever hooked after that episode.
While “The Simpsons Movie” doesn’t offer up anything new that the TV series hadn’t already touched upon in one form or another, the movie does reintroduce us to all of those wonderful characters that made “The Simpsons” part of our TV family – OK, so maybe a dysfunctional one but still family.
The movie probably would have been a bigger deal back in the 90s, when the TV series was really popular during the Clinton administration, because now what was at first groundbreaking is now more the norm. Still, “The Simpsons Movie” holds up as well as, if not better than, some of the recent animated features. And you can watch the movie even if you’ve never seen the television show and still know what’s going on. However, those who are fans of the series will absolutely love the references to past episodes and inside stuff that will crack you up all over again. That, and there are new cameos to see this time, including the band Green Day for one.
The movie centers around the town of Springfield, and its unflattering status as the most polluted town in America after Homer dumps some environmentally unfriendly “waste” into the town’s lake. This sets off a chain reaction, drawing the attention of President Arnold Schwarzenegger (voiced by Harry Shearer). That, in turn, brings in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Russ Cargill (narrated by Albert Brooks, who is hysterical).
And this is just the beginning of Homer’s problems. The whole town is pissed and goes after him. Thus begins not just Homer’s journey to right a wrong in the eyes of the citizens of Springfield, but also to make amends with his own family. And, oh, what a family he has. One thing I did enjoy about the movie version was some of the trademarks from the early years, such as Lisa playing her sax and Bart … well, being Bart. The supporting cast, like any good ensemble, really helps make the movie more interesting, since we know their relationships to one another.
I’m still amazed at how many voices are heard here from just a few principle players. Dan Castellaneta is the voice of not just Homer Simpson, but also Itchy, Barney, Grampa, Krusty the Clown, Mayor Quimby, the Mayor’s Aide, the Multi-Eyed Squirrel, Sideshow Mel and Mr. Teeny, just to name a sampling. Julie Kavner still voices Marge, and Nancy Cartwright is Bart Simpson, Maggie Simpson, Todd Flanders plus a few more as well. Harry Shearer (in addition to President Schwarzenegger) does a ton, including Scratchy, Mr. Burns, Rev. Lovejoy, Ned Flanders, Lenny, Skull, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner and Dr. Hibbert, to name but a few.
And, oh yes, let’s not forget the politically incorrect behavior either. Maybe because it’s animated, it seems to be given more leeway on things – after all, one could argue the Simpsons are not of any ethnicity, since they’re drawn yellow, but I guess they’re supposed to be white, if you read into that sort of thing.
Regardless, it’s refreshing to see an animated feature making politically subversive statements toward the government without apologizing for it. The television version has been doing that for years, actually. I have to admit that after watching it for free on TV, it did seem a little weird that you have to pay to see it in the theater. However, the movie version has added some pretty cool effects that wouldn’t look as impressive on the small screen and definitely are worth seeing here.
Are the Simpsons still relevant today? Oh, heck yeah, and while many of the animated movies coming out are primarily geared toward the kids, for family entertainment with a little something for the parents to see, just remember this: When was the last time you heard an animated television show (which was already in compliance with the FCC for broadcasting) was re-edited so it could be shown in the state of Utah?
Oh, yeah. I know most folks like to bolt out of the theater when the ending credits start to roll, but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you left early. That’s all I’ll say.
— Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews on RSN.
Keepin’ it reel:
Now Playing: “The Simpsons Movie”
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Marcia Wallace, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Joe Mantegna, Albert Brooks, Roswell, Tom Hanks, Philip Rosenthal, Erin Brockovich-Ellis, Minnie Driver, Maile Flanagan and Kelsey Grammer
Directed by: David Silverman
Rated: PG-13 for irreverent humor
Running time: 87 minutes
Howie gives it: 4 out of 5 doughnuts