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Old 26th Jul 2007, 13:13   #1
Daveybot
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Default The Simpsons Movie

Beginning
It's well established that when gathered together in sufficient numbers - usually anything over 2 is enough -many blokes tend to revert to quoting lines from their various favourite films and TV shows at eachother, presumably in an attempt to avoid any actual conversation. Not everyone does it, but I'm very very guilty of it myself. My most commonly-used ammunition comes from Futurama, The Big Lebowski, and of course that most magical resource of humourous dialogue: The Simpsons.

I've never before cared about a movie enough to carefully book tickets for the advance screenings, but for The Simpsons Movie I didn't think twice. I travelled to London, met up with a fellow line-regurgitator, and we approached the cinema not daring to speak our anticipation. Could The Simpsons transfer onto the big screen? Could it really make a single story entertaining for any more than twenty minutes? Were we addicted fanboys even the right people to judge it, anyway? And then, as we entered the auditorium and stared up at the lines of occupied seats, another question occurred: who the heck were all these kids?

My fellow viewer teaches at New York University for a lot of the year, and as we marched haughtily past many dads and their children he told the downright freaky tale of how some of his students this year will have never lived in a world without The Simpsons. It's been going on that long, folks, and we both shared a slightly scared moment of realisation that although these kids were sure to enjoy the feast about to be served up, they would probably never understand how blessed their lives are.

It's come a long way in its near twenty years, and although many say it's slipped a bit, I still say Springfield's tales are sharper, sillier, more beautifully presented and better told than almost any others on the TV. The affect the Simpsons has had on our culture is vast. It has changed and improved the humble sitcom by a whopping degree, and blah blah blah blah...

Sorry. I go on too much. You don't need me to tell you that The Simpsons is great. You want to know if The Simpsons Movie is any good, right?

It is.
Middle
From the very first moment of Ralph Wiggum tootling the 20th Century Fox fanfare, you are whisked happily into classic Simpsons territory. Those clouds with writing emerging from within, and that hallowed, reverential singing: 'The Siiimpsooooons...', ahhhh wonderful. And then Frink flies across the screen on his motorcycle, adding 'Mooooviiiie, on the big screen... ng-hey!', boots the screen into 16:9, and we are flown into a new cinema-friendly version of those famous opening titles as the town of Springfield is introduced.

Instead of the ending couch gag, though, we get Green Day performing a recognisable tune (the lyrics prompter is a lovely little touch) from a barge on Lake Springfield, which promptly dissolves and sinks from all the toxic waste in the lake, obligatory Titanic gag included, of course.

It's a starting point for the story - sort of - but as with any typical episode of The Simpsons the plot moves happily along without too much care about rigourous continuity from beginning to end. Many stories and plotlines overlap and evolve from eachother, and all are liberally sprinkled with characters from Springfield (though not all of them - I'll save my list for later debate). Homer gets a pig, Lisa falls in love, the government tries to destroy Springfield, Ned tries to act as a father figure to Bart, Marge and Homer argue, Springfield riots, Maggie saves people, and so on and so forth. You know how it goes.

Rather than concentrate on the details of the plot, simply rest assured that it does move along, the pace is perfect, and that the story is expanded into something big enough to justify a feature length film. The Simpsons Movie is not just three episodes stuck together, but it moves just as well as the episodes do.

But is it funny in the same way? Well, yes and no. It doesn't use pop culture references in quite the same way as the TV show. You won't find quite as many direct rip-offs of scenes from other films, for instance, but there are still quite a few more broad references: Disney's forest animals get the finest spoofing they've ever received, for instance. There's lots of political and social lampooning, too - Lisa's environmental presentation to the town, An Irritating Truth, is a fun example, but there's also Hillary as vice president to a cat, McBain as president of the US, the EPA in charge of a whole country, an Alsaka full of pipelines, and the idea that it's possible to completely seal off a place in the hope that it will somehow make the world safer.

There are a number of things that happen occasionally in The Simpsons that we all like to see again and again: Homer hallucinates, Marge looks hot, Lisa goes all giggly in front of boys, Mr Burns releases the hounds, Maggie speaks, and the Springfield residents form a good old angry mob.

There are also things that haven't happened before. The Spider Pig song, for instance - particularly it's second appearance - is something brand new that I will be humming for a long time. Bart really does get fully naked - in fact, that scene is quite beautifully presented and a perfect example of classic Simpsons visual humour: just as you think they're simply doing an old gag really well, they completely reverse it and give you exactly the other side.

And then there's the one-liners. Oh boy, the one-liners. My friends are going to get an earful the next time they meet me down the pub...
End
In-theater entertainment:
Contribution to cinema:

In a summer of disappointing sequels and adaptations, The Simpsons Movie stands alone as one that seems to have actually been properly done. It's funny and detailed enough to keep Simpsons fans happy but unlike the latest Potter franchise, for instance, it actually contains and presents a story of its own, all in a beautifully animated, well paced, straightforward, funny, nicely written package. I think Montgomery Burns probably says it best:

Eeeeexcellent...
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Old 26th Jul 2007, 13:26   #2
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

Superb, Daveybot! If the movie is half as enjoyable as your post then I'll be very happy. (Well, I'd be a little let down actually, but it's only a figure of speech, right?)

A pedant writes: as each Simpsons episode excluding breaks is 22 minutes long and not 30 minutes long, it would be 4 episodes strung together and not three. Thank you.
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Old 26th Jul 2007, 13:30   #3
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

Great stuff, Daveybot, and I think you've laid my main fears to rest. It's funny, it's vaguely coherent and not just three episodes glued end to end, and it's got most of the characters in it.

So long as the Bumble Bee Man is in it. No, don't tell me, as you've already persuaded me to go and see it.
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Old 26th Jul 2007, 13:36   #4
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

Wheee, Daveybot, what an exciting review!
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Old 26th Jul 2007, 14:00   #5
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

Mmmm, so Dave, you're clearly glad you shot the rapids of floodwater to go to London for the previews then! I'll go at the weekend with the SO, looking forward to laughing a lot.
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Old 26th Jul 2007, 14:15   #6
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

eeeeeek, I hope I haven't got anyone's hopes up too high!

One thing I noticed about this film is that it hasn't really been surrounded by hype as much as by hope. People love the Simpsons, and rather than expecting or believing this film to be good they just really want it to be. So be warned: if you know The Simpsons then don't expect Citizen Kane in the cinema, folks.

It lived up to my hopes, but it didn't blow my mind - I don't think it could have, to be honest. The fact that it is as good as a Simpsons episode - a bloody high bar to meet, even by its creators' standards - is really quite an acheivement.

It's got mixed reviews from the likes of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Many have said that it drags, so be warned: my avid fandom might have skewed my perspectives a bit there. I've tried to be fair, I really have!

Yes, I stand by my four-star review. It passes the Kermode five-laugh test, it keeps moving, and there's a moral (of sorts) to the story. If three stars mean merely average and five mean mind-blowingly fantastic, then The Simpsons Movie sits as an entertaining, amusing, hard-earned but well-deserved .
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Old 27th Jul 2007, 18:25   #7
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

A while back, I had the chance to chat briefly with Simpsons producer/screenwriter Dave Mirkin. When I asked him if there was anything they hadn't yet managed to do in 18 seasons, he laughed: "Full frontal nudity!"

Well, he'll have to come up with a new answer now.

The Simpsons Movie has all that we've come to expect when a US TV series gets turned into a movie; a little more nudity (sadly, not Marge), a little more cursing ("Goddamn"), a little more booze and drugs, bigger special effects, more drama, the death of a beloved character or two (I'm not saying who) and an A plot that dominates almost completely.

The latter is a pity, really, because it means we lose some of that constant barrage of jokes, non sequiturs, references and mad C plots that always dominated good Simpsons episodes. Instead, and it really is good compnensation, we get a more solid story which might not be 100% original, but which works for 90 minutes; even though it's a cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons has always had a lot of heart and humanity at its core and that works wonders here; even though I'm laughing my ass of for a lot of the movie, the scene that really remains is one in the first half where that big North American ape Homer gets to expound on how he sees life in a monologue that's as close as I've come to weeping in a movie theatre this year (so far!). In spite of all his madcap schemes and less-than-below-average IQ, Homer has always been a man who's on some level painfully aware of how lucky he is, and that works wonders here.

But mostly, it's a lot of fun. We get meta jokes (the black board!), we get references to other movies (Spiderpig!), we get completely pointless celebrity guests, we get some mild-mannered political satire, we get a bunch of not-too-bright yet well-meaning charcters trying to get out of ridiculous situations, we get... a hell of a good time, really. You can tell that they've brought back most of the old gang (Brooks, Groening, Jean, Mirkin, Reiss, Swartzwelder, Meyer, Scully etc) to write; they manage to stretch a Simpsons ep to 4 times its normal length and make it better than most of the entire seasons the show has had lately. I've waited for this movie for more years than I'd like to count, and after the laughter fades, what remains is a peculiar feeling that I think is the absence of disappointment. They delivered, goddamnit.

(Oh, and we get Maggie's first words to anyone else, too.)

So basically, I agree with DB.

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Old 27th Jul 2007, 18:41   #8
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

Quote:
Originally Posted by beer good View Post
A while back, I had the chance to chat briefly with Simpsons producer/screenwriter Dave Mirkin. When I asked him if there was anything they hadn't yet managed to do in 18 seasons, he laughed: "Full frontal nudity!"

Well, he'll have to come up with a new answer now.

The Simpsons Movie has all that we've come to expect when a US TV series gets turned into a movie; a little more nudity (sadly, not Marge), a little more cursing ("Goddamn"), a little more booze and drugs, bigger special effects, more drama, the death of a beloved character or two (I'm not saying who) and an A plot that dominates almost completely.

The latter is a pity, really, because it means we lose some of that constant barrage of jokes, non sequiturs, references and mad C plots that always dominated good Simpsons episodes. Instead, and it really is good compnensation, we get a more solid story which might not be 100% original, but which works for 90 minutes; even though it's a cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons has always had a lot of heart and humanity at its core and that works wonders here; even though I'm laughing my ass of for a lot of the movie, the scene that really remains is one in the first half where that big North American ape Homer gets to expound on how he sees life in a monologue that's as close as I've come to weeping in a movie theatre this year (so far!). In spite of all his madcap schemes and less-than-below-average IQ, Homer has always been a man who's on some level painfully aware of how lucky he is, and that works wonders here.

But mostly, it's a lot of fun. We get meta jokes (the black board!), we get references to other movies (Spiderpig!), we get completely pointless celebrity guests, we get some mild-mannered political satire, we get a bunch of not-too-bright yet well-meaning charcters trying to get out of ridiculous situations, we get... a hell of a good time, really. You can tell that they've brought back most of the old gang (Brooks, Groening, Jean, Mirkin, Reiss, Swartzwelder, Meyer, Scully etc) to write; they manage to stretch a Simpsons ep to 4 times its normal length and make it better than most of the entire seasons the show has had lately. I've waited for this movie for more years than I'd like to count, and after the laughter fades, what remains is a peculiar feeling that I think is the absence of disappointment. They delivered, goddamnit.

(Oh, and we get Maggie's first words to anyone else, too.)

So basically, I agree with DB.

Excellently put, BG, and I agree absolutely with what you're sayiyng. They had to change it to make it work. It was a huge risk, and you do notice the changes, but you can also tell they've worked very carefully on it to create something that actually does work, and the bizarre entertainment/relief feeling is, in the end, positive.

And now that someone else has seen it...

D'oh......me! had me in stitches.
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Old 27th Jul 2007, 19:12   #9
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

I just listened to Mark Kermode's review of this, and it's interesting hearing the opinions of someone who's only ever seen a single episode of The Simpsons and, on the whole, hates television and everything it's ever produced.

Basically he likes the film, but feels it's not quite 'cinematic' enough - the same problem he had with The Queen, apparently. While I think I can appreciate what he's saying, I can also say it didn't bother me in the slightest.

Other than that, he has only good things to say about the film - praise indeed! Certainly he has nicer things to say about The Simpsons Movie than Transformers - his review of which, by the way, is an absolute hoot I'm sure more entertaining than the film itself...
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Old 27th Jul 2007, 20:22   #10
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Default Re: The Simpsons Movie

I quite agree with all said by Daveyobt, and as said friend about to return to a world full of youngsters who have never known a world without the Simpsons (nor one with a Soviet Union), I can say the following:

1. I am quite old.
2. Shows of lesser quality are fast replacing The Simpsons as the programs of choice. Last time I took an informal poll, half of my students preferred -- preferred! -- The Family Guy. A scandal, I say; an outrage.

I should like to see the film again with an American audience, in order to see if those moments when something specifically American was mentioned (Red Rash Inn for Red Roof Inn, for example; or Homer's devotion to Access Hollywood) actually did not translate, or were simply not terribly funny.

One note -- Hillary is veep to Itchy, not Scratchy.
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