Monday, August 06, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie is funny, or at least it's funny enough. The show is unwatchable these days but the movie tones down the reflexive irony and manages to wring some good material out of a very, very tired set of characters. Still, it's a stale old scene and the film contains zero dramatic tension and lacks any real purpose outside of the expected cavalcade of moderate hilarity. Although it runs to eighty-five minutes, the movie somehow contrives to feel emptier than a single episode from the show's golden years. If you've seen one of the many episodes in which Homer has to overcome his manifold deficiencies and prove himself a good husband and father then you've basically seen the movie and might as well just wait six months and watch the funny bits on youtube.

Random thoughts (positive):

- After years of desperate storylines in which the Simpsons must help/shelter/adopt supporting character x, the filmmaker's decision to relegate the vast secondary cast to a handful of cameos was a smart one. Flanders gets a (naff) sub-plot with Bart, but otherwise the residents of Springfield do their thing where they do it best: in the background.
- Casting regular guest star Albert Brooks as the bad guy was a good move, reviving memories of his classic turn as the megalomaniac Scorpio ("He'll sting you with his dreams of power and wealth!")
- Celebrity appearances are kept at a minimum. Tom Hanks has a funny spot, but otherwise that's about it. I bet Ron Howard's pissed off he wasn't asked to appear.
- Spiderpig is brilliant.

Random thoughts (negative):

- Considering how many great episodes focus on Lisa, it's a shame she's given little more to do in the movie than make eyes at yet another sensitive Springfield newcomer.
- Also, Marge tends to work best when she is allowed to function as something other than Homer's foil. Unfortunately here she is reduced to nagging-wife mode.
- Bart has a very funny bit (literally) but otherwise comes across like the early-nineties throwback that he is.
- The attempts at satire are deadly dull. Considering the state of the world atm you'd think the writers could have come up with something sharper than a few half-arsed digs at the environmental movement and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- The various jokes at the audience's expense are gratuitous and unfunny, the film's equivalent of the show's now-standard device of openly referring to the cynicism of a storyline or character as if that not only excuses it but makes it funny when in fact it does neither.
- &c


TimT said...

Ah, the golden years. It's refreshing every year or so when Channel 10 pull out the repeat first season or second season and you get to relive just how brilliant the Simpsons were. But they've been running for so damn long now that it's possible to look back on episodes in what you might call their long decline and appreciate how good they are.

I have a soft spot for their all-musical episode, for instance, which aside from the occasional gratuitous joke (Song lyric to close the show: 'A long running series/Reaches the 300th show!' - or similar) is quite good. Really, there's hardly any other sitcom that would be able to pull off a half-hour opera. The '31 Short Films About Springfield' episode was also great.

Plus, I like their style of comedy - there's very few shows that are able to pull off their absurd humour well. I like the way they can invent character for random plot purposes (Fat German kid: "Don't make me run! I'm full of chocolate!") or even for, well, no reason. (Bumblebee Man. Oh, and Spiderpig.)

The movie was ok. You tended to get more of the same of what I described above. This is a good review, I don't actually disagree with any of it, but the Simpsons have just been there for so long, that when the movie came out, I just kind of accepted it.

Incidentally, I think that the lack of topical satire probably had something to do with the problems of movie distribution, the production process, and the technical difficulties of animation, all which tended to lengthen the results. Though I'm sure you're aware of this...!

TimT said...

PS I quite liked the joke where Flanders shows Bart the four states that border Springfield (this is a nod to those geographers who have been trying for ages to pinpoint Springfield's location): Ohio, Kentucky, Nevada and Maine.

PPS I would have left this comment in your Saturday Salon, but ... you know.

Chai said...

Mostly agree. But movie could have been much much worse so am thankful.

Tim said...

TT: Thanks for the very interesting comment, almost a review in itself.

Chai: I second your relief at its non-suckiness.

Jo said...

Haven't seen the movie, but... a world atm? Does that have, like, all the different currencies in... oh.
Oh, I see.