It Doesnt Suck!
In his big-screen debut, Homer Simpson utters the Doh! heard round the worldor at least as far away as Washington, D.C. (which, given the unspecified coordinates of Springfield, might not be that far at all), where President Schwarzenegger and an overzealous EPA chief (voiced by Albert Brooks) rush to contain a Homer-instigated eco-crisis by encasing all of Springfield in a giant, impenetrable bio(hazard)-sphere, thus reducing Americas favorite cartoon hamlet to the worlds largest snow globe. Blame it, I suppose, on the pigthe adorable little oinker Homer saves from becoming tomorrows Krusty Burger, with whom he develops such an inseparable bond that you may feel as though youre in for the Brokeback Mountain of animated bestiality movies, and whose prodigious pig poop is what gets Homer and Springfield into this whole giant mess in the first place.
And that is The Simpsons Movie in a nutshella 90-minute, years-in-the-making comic wind-up machine that begins by mocking its own audience for paying good money to see what it can watch at home for free and proceeds from there through the most wickedly funny arsenal of assaults on big government, organized religion, and corporate America this side of Borat (which, like The Simpsons Movie, somehow managed to use Rupert Murdochs money to do so). This, of course, has long been the beauty of creator Matt Groenings two-decade-old television behemoth and bona fide cultural institution, where a firm grip of dysfunctional family values and the facade of kid-friendly animation have provided a fertile breeding ground for the kind of social satire that sails right over the heads of some while striking others squarely where they live.
In all fairness, The Simpsons Movie doesnt exactly go where no episode of the TV series has gone before (unless you mean literally, to Alaska, in which case I stand corrected). Rather, what The Simpsons Movie doesand does extremely wellis revisit the series most enduring situations and themes, while upping the ante just enough to lend everything a new level of suspense. This time around, Homers doughnut-addled dunderheadedness doesnt merely put his own family in jeopardyit nearly causes Springfield itself to be wiped off the map. Meanwhile, even on the home front, the consequences are more dire: Duly humiliated after being bullied by Homer into a nude-skateboarding dareone of several priceless gags unforgivably revealed in the movies trailerBart goes searching for a more stable father figure and nearly finds one in (egads!) Ned Flanders. And in a subplot that turns out to carry unexpected emotional weight, the ever-resilient Marge (voiced as usual by the redoubtable Julie Kavner) is forced to examine the very bedrock of her marriage to see if theres anything there worth salvaging. That leads to a third-act monologuefor which longtime Simpsons writer-producer (and Terms of Endearment Oscar winner) James L. Brooks reportedly demanded more than 100 takes from Kavnerthat is one of the deepest and most searching examinations of the meaning of I do that Ive ever heard in a movie. It does the last thing you might expect The Simpsons Movie to do: It leaves you with a lump in your throat.
The Simpsons Movie has much else to recommend it, not least of all a wonderfully surreal, Dali-like encounter between Homer and an Inuit medicine woman in the wilds of Alaska (dont ask); and, after 18 seasons of seeing Springfield squeezed into the tiny parameters of the television frame, theres an undeniable kick to the movie versions vivid widescreen compositions. But the most meaningful achievement of The Simpsons Movie may be its reminder that we dont merely take pleasure in the weekly exploits of Homer, Marge, Bart, Maggie, Lisa, Grandpa, Patty, Selma, Milhouse, Flanders, Moe, Apu, Smithers, Mr. Burns, et al.; we look at themyellow skin, blue hair, bulging eyes, and alland see reflected back the best and worst of ourselves, and an uncannily accurate portrait of the modern American family.
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