“Spider-pig, Spider-pig, does whatever a spider-pig does.” … [That song is stuck in my head.] I, like every Simpsons fan out there, had such high hopes for The Simpsons Movie (not that it was 18 years in the making — I mean, how bogus is it to “hope” that a TV show you enjoy will spawn a feature film) but we wanted to see how much bigger and funnier a feature-sized version of the Simpsons would be. Unfortunately, I think we’ll need to wait another 18 years because The Simpsons Movie (though funny and not bad) was not much better than a few episodes of the TV show strung together. Let’s face it: that’s always the fear when it comes to movie versions of TV shows. Will it be worthy of the large screen yet stay true to the feel of the show? Unfortunately for the Simpsons, maybe they ran out of ideas after 18 years of episodes, but a lot of what happened in the movie seemed like redos or echoes of similar plots in TV episodes (I’m sure some fan boy out there has already mapped those echoes down to the episode production numbers. Send me the URL for that blog so I can worship His Geekiness myself!). Essentially, the movie follows the Simpson family as they escape Springfield after Homer messes up the environment. Each character has their own sub-plot, but that’s the gist of it (so you see what I mean? How many times have they had to leave Springfield for one reason or other?).
One of the benefits of the big screen is visual. While the Simpsons’s 2-D animation is generally pretty simple, it looks very good in the movie. The family never looked more yellow, and I enjoyed some of the movie-style camera work as well. If only they could apply the same cleanness to the weekly episodes as well (but I’m sure time and money play a big part in that decision). While there are a few spectacular stunts, for the most part the widescreen and the scale of the movie doesn’t really make much of a difference (except in some of the bigger-looking scenes such as ones that look at Springfield from a bit of a distance). The storyline could have been more movie-like if it were not broken up into the sub-plots which don’t seem to glue together (i.e. “That’s where we’d separate them if we had to air this movie as 4 TV episodes instead”). Bart is tempted to become one of the Flanderses, Lisa finds another pre-teen crush, and Marge once again comes to the brink of realizing that she can do better than Homer. Nothing new under the hand-drawn sun, I guess.
Homer does get most of the good, funny scenes — which only proves how much we enjoy laughing at non-sensical silliness. It’s strange how spending so much time with Homer’s insanity really makes me realize how over-the-top he is, and also how selfish he is. I guess this movie actually succeeds in making me see Homer in a serious light. (OK, I’m ready for the paradox to go away now.)
The other missed opportunity was the “cast of thousands”. I think they tried to bring back as many of the marginal and side characters for cameos as possible– one of the advantages of not having to pay the actual actors to return as long as the one-timers don’t have any lines. Unfortunately, because the Simpsons fled town, we only look back in the occasional moment to find out what’s going on “meanwhile in Springfield”. It’s almost like a Where’s Waldo? exercise to try to spot the cameos as group scenes whiz by (“Hey, wasn’t that the Japanese sushi chef who served the deadly fugu to Homer holding the torch in front row of that lynch mob?). I would have enjoyed the Simpsons getting into craziness at home and interacting with more Springfieldians directly. So it’s disappointing that after 18 years in the making, this is the movie we’ve got. Now back to the song: “Spider-pig, spider-…” (3.5 out of 5)