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The Simpsons Movie

Nicola Mostyn realises there’s no place like Springfield

Published on July 29th 2007.

The Simpsons Movie

Everything about The Simpsons film had it poised for being an almighty let down: The late previews (often indicative of a turkey); The transition from TV to film (notoriously difficult); the mumblings that, in recent years, this beloved, untouchable series has ‘jumped the shark’ (TV geek term for when a long running show has reached its peak and is heading swiftly downwards, named after a certain moment in Happy Days).

And, Simpsons fans being as they are, everyone would have been praying for a hit whilst simultaneously sharpening their knives for the faintest whiff of disaster – after all, you don’t train your fans to love clever, multi-layered comedy and then expect them to overlook flaws. After 19 seasons of Matt Groening’s landmark animation, people feel like they own it.

So there was a collective sigh of relief in the cinema when The Simpsons Movie opened to a scene featuring Itchy and Scratchy, with the mouse doing the cat some violence on the Moon, in what turns out to be a film version of the TV show, causing Homer to gripe, “I can't believe we're paying to see something we get on TV for free.” Having begun with this hands-up acknowledgement of their audience’s potential grievances, you are assured that, if nothing else, the film will be as savvy and self-aware as we’ve come to expect from the TV series.

And so it is. The Simpsons Movie begins with just another everyday act of lunacy from Homer who adopts and falls in love with a pig (Homer singing “Spiderpig, Spiderpig” goes down as my favourite moment of daft humour in the film, just pipping “paraplegerino”).

Because this is Homer, his affection for said pig, combined with his love of donuts, leads him (in a way that could only make sense on The Simpsons) to tipping Springfield’s lake over from polluted to lethal. This is much to the horror of his increasingly activist daughter, Lisa, and to the fury of the town, who find themselves shut off from the rest of America in a gigantic glass dome.

One of the things that makes The Simpsons so popular is that it has laughs on lots of different levels. You may be technically aware of this but the chances are you don’t really get to experience just how true it is when watching at home, unless you have the sort of generation-spanning family and televisual habits favoured by the Waltons.

In the cinema, though, this fact becomes apparent because you’ll be chuckling your head off at something that the person down the row doesn’t find funny whilst they start to guffaw at something that you only find mildly amusing. And then you’ll both explode at the same thing. It’s a great – and rare – experience to laugh all the way through a film with a couple of hundred other people and, thankfully there are plenty of laughs - rude ones, daft ones, witty ones, post-modern ones and ones I didn’t actually get (What’s a nome?). There’s even a moment where, like a great big wuss, I nearly cried.

What makes this film work is, curiously, what stops it being an absolute masterpiece. Instead of trying to outdo their TV series in this transition to the big screen, Matt Groening and the rest of the production team have kept The Simpsons Movie in proportion to the ethos of the TV show. They’ve expanded the action of the family to the outside world whilst containing the majority of its characters in the dome, using the same self-referential techniques re the movie business as they did with making TV and, crucially, eschewing computer generated ‘realism’ for old fashioned 2D (a relief for anyone who never quite got over what they did to Scooby Doo).

The result is a good, solid, hilarious extra-long episode of The Simpsons, which makes sense. To pull something astounding out of the bag would suggest that Groening and the rest of The Simpsons’ creators had been holding back all these years which of course, would be heresy.

Ultimately, The Simpsons Movie is everything you’d hope to expect; funny, familiar, warm, clever, entertaining and capable of uniting a cinema audience in 87 minutes of chuckling, laughing, grinning and sniggering. I think it was that wise old sage George Bush who summed it up best; “Why can’t everything else be more like The Simpsons?”

The Simpsons Movie (PG) is on general release

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JazzmanJuly 27th 2007.

Thanks for a superbly written article. The best review I have read.

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