Saturday, August 25, 2007

MovieWatch: "The Simpsons Movie"

"The Simpsons Movie"
Director: David Silverman
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 59
In a Nutshell: The opposite of "Harry Potter 5," really. I had low expectations for "The Simpsons Movie" after the early trailers and buzz, but then people started saying, "It's not great, but it's as good as we could have hoped for," so that raised my hopes. Sure, that probably shouldn't have boosted my hopes *that* much, but I came away marginally disappointed. Not hugely disappointed. But marginally.

Then again? How disappointed could I possibly have been in a movie that brought me Spider-Pig. Like all of the very finest "Simpsons" gags ("I hate every ape I see/ From chimpan-A to chimpan-Z"), the "Spider-Pig" theme makes me giggle every time I sing it to myself. Of course, I knew the Spider-Pig song going in and I don't know if the movie gave me anything more memorable.

Additional thoughts after the bump...

Click through...

"The Simpsons Movie" took many of the right approaches to bringing the series -- which I still watch religiously every Sunday night -- to the big screen. Unlike the "Family Guy" direct-to-DVD movie, it wasn't just three episodes stapled together, sutures visible at all times. Instead, it was a 22 minute episode that was fleshed out and expanded to 80-plus minutes, only showing occasional signs of bloating. The Homer causes Springfield to get deemed an environmental disaster and stuck under a dome could have been covered in the standard episode length, so they padded it with a trip to Alaska, Bart's brief desire to be adopted by the Flanderses, Lisa's crush on a randomly introduced Irish boy and Grandpa's random gifts as a soothsayer. Oh and they added Spider-Pig, who set the plot in motion, but vanished entirely from the second half (at Comic-Con, Matt Selman [Penn alum!!!] said that off-screen, Spider-Pig was killed by Dr. Octo-Pig or Dr. Pig-to-Pus...). So, unlike the "South Park" movie, "The Simpsons Movie" felt padded and, honestly, slow and bloated in places.

First complaint: How do you have a "Simpsons Movie" without a coach gag? Even a built-in couch gag within the film some place?

Second complaint: Not quite enough brains. At its very best, "The Simpsons" throws cultural references around like mad and despite how semi-timely many of the pop culture nods end up feeling (impressive given the long lead time for episodes), they're almost never dated with the repeats come along. I think an effort was made to down-play pop culture and politics and anything contemporary in the movie, perhaps to aid its shelf-life and perhaps to aid play in foreign markets. Regardless, I didn't feel like there was enough intelligence. Plus, despite the extra large screen and room for additional details, I didn't get the sense that the movie was as chock-full of visual references and in-jokes as I might have liked. I appreciated the various self-referential "We're a movie based on a FOX TV show" moments, but I may have wanted more of that.

Third complaint: Sure, I love The Simpson family. But we got less of the supporting cast that you might in a standard 22 minute episode. Give me more Lenny and Carl. Give me more Mr. Burns. Give me more Chief Wiggum and Ralph Wiggum. Give me more of Dr. Nick and Gil and Apu and Bumblebee Man and Krusty and Kang & Kodos and Mr. Teeny. How is it that Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel had a bigger part than so many of those favorite characters?

Fourth complaint: This is just me, but if I were the members of "The Simpsons" team, I'd have tried to find a way to pay tribute to Phil Hartman in the movie somewhere, even if that just meant a Lionel Hutz reference or a Troy McLure movie playing at the Aztec. I'm sure there are several other folks from the "Simpsons" voice roster who have passed on (including guest voices like George Plimpton ["And a hotplate!"]) who might have warranted salutes, but Hartman kind of deserved one.

I laughed and chuckled, but probably less hard than I laugh at a good episode of the show, especially on a per-minute basis.

So it wasn't awful. And perhaps if I hadn't waited over a month to see it, I would have felt less build-up. But I wanted a wee bit more.

Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig/ Does whatever a Spider-Pig does/ Can he swing/ From a web/ No he can't/ He's a pig.

Tomorrow? "The Bourne Ultimatum."

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Daniel. I know it's kind of late in the game, but I just wanted to let you know that I cited your post in my own review of the movie:

    Thanks, and happy holidays!