I guess I’m biased. As someone who used to love The Simpsons when they were in their prime, I can still recall classic episodes and remember the way their humor used to be. Still, I was obligated to see The Simpsons Movie. I went in with low expectations, since most will know that episodes of The Simpsons have not been relevant for at least eight seasons. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I watched The Simpsons on TV, but I can still consider myself a fan because I’ll always love the first ten seasons dearly.
The aforementioned quote belongs to Comic Book Guy and was spoken in a classic episode of The Simpsons. While I’m not necessarily disgusted by the film, it did leave me feeling rather indifferent, which is why this is somewhat difficult to write. I just didn’t find the movie very funny. There were a couple of great scenes and some classic lines, but the story was pretty dull and none of the jokes had the punch that the earlier seasons took for granted.
It comes as a surprise to me to see that I seem to be in the minority. IMDB has nearly 10,000 votes in and the movie is sitting at a bafflingly-high 8.4 out of 10 – that’s tied with The Pianist and already #49 out of all movies rated on the site (only 7/10ths of a point behind the #1 movie of all-time, The Godfather). The film received “B” reviews from most critics, but I really find that generous.
But let’s back up and discuss what the movie had working for it. The animation style combining hand-drawn cartoons and CGI worked well and really did a good job “modernizing” the characters. The music, by Hans Zimmer, was engaging and worked well to set the mood. The lines that did stick were great, such as, “Thank you boob lady” and “Why does everything I whip leave me?” In general, Homer was pretty funny.
Those were the pluses. Conversely, there wasn’t much else going for it. The movie had a rough time becoming coherent initially and then chugged along slightly less haphazardly. The main characters were pretty undeveloped and the supporting characters were barely even there. It was clear that the film needed to focus on the family bearing its title, but they couldn’t do it all on their own. Some bigger guest star names would almost have seemed mandatory but were conspicuously lacking.
There were certainly political undertones; Hillary Clinton showed up (although that’s all she did – there were no lines) and Lisa’s environmental work went by a title eerily similar to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Global warming was also directly mentioned, but only in passing. It’s the centrality of the environmental movement (and EPA) that was unnecessarily didactic.
Then there were the things that were just plain odd or confusing. What might qualify for this? How about the full frontal nudity of Bart Simpson? Animated, sure, but a weird inclusion nonetheless. Something else that confused me was that Arnold Schwarzenegger was President. Those familiar with The Simpsons will know that Springfield has a local actor named Rainier Wolfcastle (portrayer of the action hero “McBain”). Wolfcastle is clearly supposed to “be” Schwarzenegger and has been for the last 15 years or so – why now would they throw in the actual Arnold?
I would have loved to have seen a Simpsons movie made ten years ago. As it is, this was just an extension of the recent seasons which shared little resemblance to the foundation upon which The Simpsons was built. It may still be an entertaining movie – I’m not sure, since I went in hoping for a revival and all I found was more of the same.
Here’s to remembering our “favorite family” the way they were instead of languishing over what they’ve become.