SEE OUR FAMILY. AND FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURS.
It only took a minute or two on the opening night of The Simpsons Movie before there was a technical problem in one of the theaters in Stockholm. The movie stopped and the lights went on. The crowds were getting very restless. Then the movie started again… and there was another glitch. This time the problem took longer to fix and people were getting ready to hang whoever was responsible. This was after all the night when we were finally supposed to see our favorite yellow family get their own movie after 17 years on a small screen. Fortunately, the problem was fixed and the growling turned to laughter that wouldn’t stop.
I have deliberately named all the eleven screenwriters because they are the cream of the crop who have spent years laboring over a script that not only would have a compelling story to tell but also a great barrage of jokes. Some critics have said that the movie is like an extended episode of the TV show, but frankly it is better than most current episodes. It is at least funnier. As for the quality of the satire and the story, it’s good enough, but the writers inevitably show that it’s getting increasingly difficult to come up with fresh ideas after 400 episodes.
The movie begins with Grampa talking in tongues in church, something that eventually turns out to be a premonition of bad things to come. It all goes south on the day when Homer decides to adopt a pig and make him his best new friend. Bart becomes jealous, but there is a much bigger problem when Homer secretly dumps a whole silo of pig manure into the local lake and causes an environmental disaster of such proportions that the EPA seals off the entire city of Springfield with a giant glass dome. It all turns out to be a conspiracy hatched by an evil man called Cargill who runs the EPA for President Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is too dim-witted to see through Cargill’s game. Now it’s up to the Simpsons to save Springfield from obliteration.
A Luis Buñuel homage
It’s a stupid story, but as loyal Simpsons fans will recognize, the writers stay true to their traditional criticism of authorities and institutions. Plenty of fans will be sorry to see so many of their favorite supporting characters only make fleeting appearances (at best), but there’s so many of them and so little time really. At least Ralph, bless his heart, gets one of the biggest laughs. Homer, or should I say Dan Castellaneta, is in great shape; one of his blunders (the hammer in the eye) is even turned into a Luis Buñuel homage.
The sentimental ingredients at the heart of the show are evident here as well; Lisa falls in love, and Homer learns that to save himself he must save the people of Springfield. We need that emotional connection to the characters, not just the belly laughs. Technically speaking, the movie looks more or less like one of the episodes, but the CGI makes some sequences quite elaborate.
I’ll leave it to the Comic Book Guy to debate Dr. Nick Riviera’s fate, Bart Simpson’s penis and whether Spiderpig will be around for next season or not… and suffice to say that this is probably the best Groening and company can muster after 17 years. There is certainly no reason to go “D’oh!”
The Simpsons Movie 2007-U.S. Animated. 87 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, Richard Sakai, Mike Scully. Directed by David Silverman. Screenplay: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti. Voices of Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson), Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson), Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson), Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer… Albert Brooks, Joe Mantegna, Tom Hanks, Green Day.
Quote: “I like men now.” (Ralph Wiggum after seeing Bart naked)
Last word: “It was actually a suggestion of a friend of mine who has done art direction for widescreen before. He said look at those, particularly ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, just look for the almost architectural approach to the staging, just to get your mind about staging things for widescreen, the composition and staging. ‘Mad, Mad World’ is great because you have a lot of characters, a lot of funny characters in one shot, in one take sometimes. Really well staged in where they’re placed. And you focus your attention. You’ve got eight or ten funny people in one shot and really well done. You’re looking at this, you’re looking at this, you’re looking at that. That’s key in directing, where you want to eye to go. So both of those films are very good examples of a big wide canvas, a lot of people but directing the eye specifically where you want it to go.” (Silverman, Can Mag)