Dir: David Silverman
Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria
“The Simpsons” first came onto TV waaaay back in 1735. Well, not quite, it was 1989, but it feels like it’s been around for centuries, doesn’t it? The problem with something that’s run on for eighteen years is that, eventually, the quality is bound to dip. Sadly this happened some time around the ninth season, when jokes stopped having a quietly clever depth to them and became focussed on hurting Homer and having the thousands of cast members in every scene of every episode. If one was being cynical about it, it seems like “The Simpsons” has become a mere shadow of its former self and has resorted to attempting to play out like its wittier, faster rivals, namely “South Park” and “Family Guy”.
So, after nine years of mediocrity comes the long-promised (“eighteen years in the making!”) feature film. And what a waste of development time it is. You’d think that after eighteen seasons they would have plenty of material to fall back on for this, but, no. The jokes feel like limp outtakes from sub-par episodes, forced in through blandly contrived conversations that serve to advance neither the plot or the laughs in the audience. In fact, there’s only one half-decent joke in here, Squeaky-Voiced Teen’s “Four years of film school for this?” as he cleans up the theatre at the end of the credits. Amazingly, eleven writers are credited for the screenplay, which plays right into the hands of “Too many cooks…”
As for the story, it’s all been done before. Homer (Dan Castellaneta) almost destroys Springfield through his own stupidity, so he and the family flee the angry mob to the country of the week, where he learns to love Marge and co (again) and then saves the day. Subplots include Bart (Nancy Cartwright) joining the Flanders clan, Lisa (Yeardley Smith) finding love in the shape of a fellow environmental activist and Marge (Julie Kavner) trying to solve a puzzle relating to the end of Springfield. Nothing that hasn't been covered better in the series.
There are some good points here, though. The animators have done a great job making a TV show look like film. There are plenty of grand sweeping shots and the characters don’t look that weird in all-3D environments. But that’s about it.
The fact is, the writers clearly are uncomfortable writing for an episode that’s four times as long as normal, and it really shows. Set pieces and sequences feel forced in, with no real purpose. Bart’s nude skateboard is introduced when he and Homer are fixing the roof and Bart suddenly says, “We could have some fun…” How are the two even related? The film’s real flaw is revealed in the painfully dull trip to Alaska (something else that comes out of nowhere) when the story gets more serious to inspire Homer to save Springfield. The same lines are said over and over again, repackaged to sound like plot development when it isn’t. It shows a real lack of imagination, considering how much plot material each episode can burn through in just twenty minutes. Also, the film’s irritatingly pro-environment edge betrays the real underlying message here – it’s not a comedy about a loveable family, it’s a letter to the viewer entitled “Stop destroying the world”.
At the end of the day, the whole film feels completely unnecessary, as if it’s a last-ditch attempt to make people remember “The Simpsons” for all time. Perhaps the biggest joke of them all is from Homer, at the film’s beginning:
“Why are we paying for something we’ve been getting on TV for free? If you ask me, everyone in this theatre is a sucker, especially… YOU!”