The Simpsons Movie is neither the instant classic nor the total disaster, it could have been. Does it feel necessary? Not entirely, but it still has some really funny moments. Probably about 20 good and solid (“gut-busting” would be a stretch) laugh moments in the whole film, and the rest of the humor is a bit remedial. Using the government’s decision to seal off Springfield is an amusing narrative springboard, but I couldn’t help feel that the whole “end of the world as we know it” storyline had so much more potential than where the writers took it. There’s a moment near the end of the film when young dweeb Martin decides that he’s going to use his last minutes on Earth to enact revenge on the town bullies. That right there, is a direction the writers could have fleshed out for many more laughs with many more characters. What would the Springfield characters do if they only had 30 minutes left to live? But wishing for that exploration would assume the beloved supporting players get much screen time at all. They don’t.
The focus falls almost entirely on the Simpson family, which may seem like an obvious idea on paper. It had me missing the adored others, though. Part of the reason that the TV series has been able to sustain itself for two decades is because these characters (Moe, Barney, Otto, Chief Wiggum, etc.) provide a narrative and comedic backbone. Let’s face it: the Simpson family, with the exception of Homer, is not all that funny alone. And, as a result, The Simpsons Movie stalls in the Second Act. This is when the film could have exited a tiring scenario involving Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, and returned focus to the town we love rather than the family we find kind of amusing.
Maybe I really am one of those Simpsons fans that only liked a few of the earlier seasons. Maybe the movie reflects the 2007 version of the show appropriately. I wouldn’t know, I stopped watching years ago. So while I moan that The Simpsons Movie only briefly touches on the atmosphere we find so definitive, I’m using Seasons 3-6 as a basis for my argument. The movie is funny, just riddled with missed opportunities. The casting of Albert Brooks as the villain is frustrating because old fans like myself know Brooks as the voice of Simpsons super-bad guy Hank Scorpio. He’s not Scorpio in the film, and it only serves as a reminder that I would rather watch that classic episode three times in a row instead of watching The Simpsons Movie again.
The rumors and news are true: there’s profanity, nudity, drugs, superior animation, and a handful of celebrity voice cameos (a certain two-time Oscar winner being the best among them). Like I said, there are some genuinely awesome laughs. I don’t wanna give the impression I didn’t like the film. It delivers entertainment, and it’s gonna make a TON of money this weekend. I was just disappointed as a fan of the Simpsons era when they took the kind of chances you can’t take on television. And now that The Simpsons has come to theaters, it feels (dare I say) family-friendly.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that we also saw two trailers: Alvin and the Chipmunks and the teaser for The Dark Knight. Alvin looks like crap, and eats it too (see the trailer to know what I mean by that). The Dark Knight trailer was just that: dark as night, only dialogue from Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and what seemingly was Heath Ledger as the Joker. It sounded really, really cool.