Friday, July 27, 2007

The Simpsons Movie: Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig...

Brief spoilers for "The Simpsons Movie" coming up just as soon as I find a really kind-hearted carnie to give me one more chance...

Expanding a little on my initial thoughts from a few hours after the screening, I'm really happy with the movie, even though I know it's not an instant classic the way the "South Park" movie was.

The first 20-30 minutes feature most of the best gags and memorable sequences, with Bart's naked skateboard ride and, especially, the Fox crawl joke as highlights. (The theater I saw it in was packed with industry people -- including Fox chairman Peter Liguori -- and the place exploded when the crawl began. I know it's wishful thinking, but maybe that gag can shame Fox into changing its bug-happy ways -- for "The Simpsons," if not for all of primetime.)

Of course, that early stretch of the film is the part lightest on plot. While there's set-up for all the shenanigans with the EPA and President Ahnuld, the first half-hour is essentially a series of thinly-connected sketches -- very funny sketches, but still a format that would describe the TV series from around the point it hit double digit seasons. But it was still a pleasure to get to experience vintage "Simpsons"-style humor ("I'll teach you to laugh at something that's funny!" or Nelson losing his voice from laughing too long at Bart's doodle) with a huge, boisterous crowd. (I wonder how this movie's going to play for people who just wait on the DVD.)

Once the EPA storyline really kicks in, the laughs slow down, but I like that Groening and company didn't try to force gags. I know some critics and fans have complained that the movie doesn't feature nearly enough of the supporting cast, especially with Homer packing up the clan to Alaska. I'm okay with the focus on the family, though; they're the reason most of us fell in love with the show, and I've missed the genuine emotions at the heart of the series' earliest episodes like "Lisa's Substitute." Bart's growing affection for Flanders and, especially, Marge's videotaped message for Homer were really affecting. (Julie Kavner was really amazing in the video scene; too bad voice actors have no real shot at major film awards.) Would I have liked more of Mr. Burns or Apu or Barney? Sure, but not at the expense of the family dynamic.

For all the talk about how the writers didn't want to do the movie if they'd just be repeating bits from the series, there were several sequences that were exactly that. Homer's vision quest in the frozen wilds reminded me of his post-chili cook-off hallucinations, and Comic Book Guy evaluating his life in the face of impending death was nearly identical to the bit from the Halloween episode where he gets hit by a French missile. (The only difference: instead of feeling he's wasted his life, he now has no regrets. If the Halloween shows weren't out of continuity, I'd make some kind of Worst. Mischaracterization. Ever. joke. I guess I just did.)

I also loved how David Silverman and the animators opened up the visuals for the big screen, in a way that made all the characters look like themselves, but better.

So that's me. What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

What exactly do you mean by "crawl"? The opening credits?

I'll admit, I haven't seen the movie yet, and I've fallen out of watching the show regularly because while at school, a bunch of things, like work, school, friends, or going to the gym, interfered with it. Nevertheless, I still think it's a great show, but since the beginning, the show has relied on somewhat random humor that might not be thematically appropriate. Yet the jokes work. So even if the laughs are brought on by "thinly connected sketches," it's good that they are there.

My hope for the show is that it runs in its current format, or something very similar to it, until the producers no longer think they can produce decent episodes. Then, they can mess with it in a spinoff, or they can simply end it. Whatever happens, I'd like it to go out on a classy note like "Frasier" or "The West Wing," two series whose best moments, most would agree, were at the beginning.

JMC said...

Took the boys to the first morning showing today. We had a blast, even if I've only sporadically kept up with the series these past few years. I think they hit the sweet spot between the pathos and humor.

And they did take great advantage of the increased screen real estate, with scenes like Bart running off with Flander's delicious cocoa concoction, etc. It also felt like the length was *just* right, not too short and not too long.

All in all, kudos to the team. Oh and stick around to the very end if you want to brag that you caught *every* single gag in the movie.

Ted Frank said...

The crawl is the line on the bottom where "Fox" was "advertising" a new game show.

Rainier Wolfcastle has a longer name in the movie version, I suppose to avoid confusion.

Ted Frank said...

I noticed "Kang" in the credits, but no scene with Kang in it. A last-minute cut?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that there was a lot of cuts in the movie. Patty and Selma appear in the credits even though they never speak. Sideshow Bob was reportedly supposed to be in this movie, probably just a quick cameo, but he appeared nowhere. Hopefully, it'll make for a kick-ass DVD.

Anonymous said...

Two moments that caused an actual, literal knee-slap and loud laughter from myself:

1) Ralph saying, "I like men now!"

2) The bomb-robot taking its own life.

Also: how great was Albert Brooks? His ordering of the big guys and smaller guys was brilliant.

I had a great time -- though I must say that most of that was the experience of being surrounded by 400 other people. I can't imagine it being nearly as funny on TV.

JMC said...

Sideshow Bob is on for about 10 seconds, cursing at the dome IIRC.

Anonymous said...

I thought that was Sideshow Mel cursing at the dome?

Oh and stick around to the very end if you want to brag that you caught *every* single gag in the movie.

What did the usher say at the end? The stupid theater I saw it at cut the sound right before the last gag.

Ralph's "I like men now!" and the reveal of Bart's doodle were the funniest parts for me. I also think it helped seeing it at a midnight showing with a bunch of rowdy fans (could have done without the beach balls, though--stupid teenagers!).

Alan, what was the joke you mentioned in your other post that was funny, but that you didn't want to spoil by talking about it?

Undercover Black Man said...

For some reason, my favorite line was Albert Brooks's line about wanting to give something back... "Not the money, but something."

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVED the TV show through about Season 8. After that, I'd maybe smile once or twice a show. I still try one or two episodes a season, and it still seems very sad and unfunny now. So I was afraid the movie would be the same...

I was wrong! The movie was great, and lived up to "The Simpsons" at its best. Maybe as good a TV-to-screen translation as "South Park". I have to also give them credit for not relying on too many voice cameos--Green Day, Tom Hanks, and Albert Brooks were it, I think.

JMC said...

Dez, you're correct and I have egg on my face now. :(

But I can save myself! The usher at the end said something to the effect of '4 years of film school for this?!'

Anonymous said...

Thanks, m.chavez!