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January 08, 2008


I shared your disappointment, only mine was palpable enough for me to give the movie a negative score. Sure, it has a few laughs, and it is by no means as painful to sit through as many of the year's other "comedies", but you know, I'd contend that there are well over 100 episodes of the show itself with more big laughs, stinging satire, and convincing pathos in 22 minutes than this 88 minute movie. As far as I'm concerned, that's a failure.

"[It] fails to take significant advantage of film’s expansive creative freedoms"

Exactly. We waited almost 20 years for this, and all we get is a glimpse of Bart's penis? Lame. This was perhaps funnier, but not remotely as bold as "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut".

I can certainly empathize with this good-but-slightly-disappointing mindset, but on the whole I found the film to be damn near perfect, in a modest sense that didn't attempt to shove 18 years worth of television history down the viewer's throats. Had the film been made ten years ago it would be impossible to approach it the same way, but at this point in time I think The Simpsons have become a cultural identity enough that the film exists apart from the show, at once a summarization and a reinvention of its timeless thematic permanence. Even so, though, it's not *perfect*, and I too would have liked some more cinematic touches (and Bart's wee-wee isn't what I had in mind...more like panoramic landscape shots, etc.). Maybe the sequel can be a series of shorts, each directed by a different master. Here's the Scorsese single take shot through the back of the Kwik-E-Mart...here's David Lynch's exploration of Marge's repressed subconscious...


To some extent, the film was faced with an unenviable, and maybe impossible, task: living up to the expectations fostered by so many brilliant episodes. And given how many classic episodes there are, one could predict beforehand that the movie wouldn't wind up being the greatest Simpsons material ever.

That said, I think the film is much more a "summarization" than a "reinvention," since almost everything done in the movie has been done before, and for the most part better, in a prior TV episode. Was that an inevitable outcome? Probably, but there's still something disappointing about the way that Groening et al played it safe and refused to fully take advantage of the visual and narrative possibilities that film offers over television. Joe's South Park comparison is apt, because that's a film that both stayed true to its source material in every way, and yet took advantage of the big-screen canvas in new and clever ways. And, on a similar note, it's also what the recent The Simpsons Game did as well, offering up familiar sights and jokes but also crafting a story that was custom-built for its given medium.

But, really, I hardly feel like bashing The Simpsons Movie, since I thought it was, at least for its first hour, very funny.

Yeah, looking back I think "reinvention" was too strong a word; "summarization" is the head of the nail, I think. It does it well and I kind of adore it for that (but really, we give it practically the same rating, and with a lot of these things it isn't so much a difference of opinion as a different route taken to get there). But the "South Park" film is better, and for many reasons, least among them its balls-out capitalization of the new medium. "Simpsons" did that on occasion - I love the organic transition from falling wood chips to autumn leaves near the end, not to mention the fact that Green Day plays the theme song before going down with honor - but yeah, it was by and large an episode x3. The best episode in a while, though.

"The best episode in a while, though"


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