The Simpsons Movie Review
By Joe Lozito
All Systems D'oh!
The 18 seasons of "The Simpsons" follow a pretty clear trajectory. From underground discovery (via short subjects on "The Tracey Ullman Show") to social barometer (seasons 4, 5 and 6 are unparalleled) to respected relevancy-struggler (recent episodes are hit-and-miss). Meanwhile, "South Park" - once nipping at our favorite family's yellow heels (typified in a sixth season outing called "The Simpsons Already Did It") - has become the commentator that "The Simpsons" once was. For example, last season both shows tackled the "World of Warcraft" phenomenon. "Park" aired theirs a month before "The Simpsons" and knocked it out of the, well, park, leaving "The Simpsons" feeling for the first-time like an also-ran.
What's unique about "The Simpsons", however, is not its trajectory but its staying power and cultural influence. 400 episodes in, the animated family can still be counted on for a few quality laughs even if the quantity is not what it once was. And Homer's trademark "D'oh" is officially part of the English language. As a loyal and devoted watcher for lo these many years, I anticipated the release of "The Simpsons Movie" - their first full-length foray onto the big screen - with great trepidation. The series is - without debate - past its prime. Is now really the time to take this leap? So you can understand how happy I am to report that "The Simpsons Movie" is about the best we fans could hope for. It feels like a great episode of the series - just longer. The only difference really is watching it with a room full of strangers. And as a bonus, sharing the knowing laughs with a theater audience is one of the most enjoyable - and least expected - parts of the film.
From a brilliant opening which exemplifies the type of humor that made "The Simpsons" what they are, the movie is wall-to-wall with jokes - some good, some groan-worthy. It has much of what makes the show work (countless outstanding secondary characters) and some of what doesn't (taking the clan out of Springfield), but it also has more consistent laughs than any film in memory. Albert Brooks (billed, of course, as A. Brooks) joins the regular cast of vocal superstars (Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria), each providing the flawless comic abilities that make them TV's most valuable unseen players.
With a fan base clamoring for the Best Movie Ever, it's difficult to imagine the pressure on these filmmakers. But they rise to the occasion. Assembling a veritable who's-who of classic "Simpsons" scribes (eleven in total), the film wisely hangs on a loose premise (an eco-crisis, caused by Homer's signature stupidity, dooms Springfield) leaving room for countless throw-away gags of varying degrees of success. Directed by long-time "Simpsons" contributor David Silverman (his tenure goes back to the "Ullman" show), the film takes advantage of the larger screen format and, one would assume, bigger budget by staging expansive crowd scenes, a bravura naked skateboarding sequence, and a ticking-clock finale worthy of Jack Bauer or John McClane.
"The Simpsons Movie" never reaches the diabolically satirical heights of 1999's "South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut", but it also never plumbs the scatological depths of that movie. As a result, you may find yourself laughing more consistently at "The Simpsons Movie" if not as loudly. And I guess that's what "The Simpsons" has become - a sort of comfort comedy. There's no denying that the big yellow gang has gotten a bit long in the tooth but it's equally indisputable that the likes of "South Park" and "Family Guy" wouldn't exist without them. "The Simpsons" may not be as young as they once were, but they can still deliver comedy gold when they put their minds to it. And with these eleven writers and this cast, "The Simpsons Movie" has some of the best comedy minds. Ever.