Grin and Bare It!

bart_simpson.jpgAfter surviving the initial stampede into the movie theater, with people climbing on top of each other to get to the “good seats” first, I was left wondering why I actually came to see The Simpsons Movie. I never was a huge fan of the television show, but I always enjoyed its irreverent, witty humor. I guess that I was curious to see what Matt Groening and his team could deliver for their long-awaited transition to the big screen. I have to admit that I was also sucked in by the movie’s marketing campaign, when 7-Eleven stores were converted to Kwik-E-Marts carrying Springfield’s finest: bright pink donuts, Krusty O’s Cereal, Buzz cola, and frozen Slurpees!

After 400 episodes and 18 seasons, coming out with a fresh storyline, gratifying for the die-hard fans but also appealing to the uninitiated, must have been, to say the least, challenging. There are plenty of narrative threads in the movie, from Grandpa being possessed to Homer neglecting Bart in favor of his adopted pet, Spiderpig. When Homer accidentally pollutes Springfield’s lake with a truck full of pig’s droppings, smarmy Russ Cargill (Albert Brooks), head of the Environmental Protection Agency, decides to encase Springfield under an indestructible, transparent dome.

Yet, the abundance of action and sub-plots does not amount to a very cohesive narrative. Given the eleven credited writers, you would have expected director David Silverman and his team to construct a more flowing storyline. The Simpsons Movie is so dense with one-liners and self-referential jokes that it does not allow the plot to develop. Writing as many jokes as possible is central for a 22-minute episode, but gets grating over a full-length feature. Although the movie is approximately four times longer than a television episode, the film did not possess the epic quality required to fill the cinematic space.

To the movie’s credit, the plentiful postmodern references are hilarious, from an homage to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead to an Alaskan version of a famous videogame renamed Grand Theft Walrus. There are also the customary star cameos from the likes of Green Day, Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks, and last but not least, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the president of the United States. Yikes…

Admittedly, expanding a television program to feature size and scope has always been a tricky feat. Visually, The Simpsons Movie has stuck with the basic 2D animation style of the television show. Staying faithful to the original design makes sense financially and artistically, as changing the characters’ trademark visual simplicity would have alienated too many fans. Thankfully we were also spared a live action feature with James Gandolfini as Homer Simpson. However, the simplistic animation doesn’t benefit from the cinema’s widescreen immersion. The Frankenstein-inspired crowd scene, where the animation team has managed to cram every Simpsons characters ever created in one shot, is one of the few that takes advantage of the cinematic space offered by the big-screen format.

Although it does a decent job of making the transition to the big screen, David Silverman's film is pretty much just an expanded episode of the television show. After leaving the theater, I left like I had just watched a trailer for the best of the Simpsons DVD box set: plenty of laughs but not much substance. - Morgane Lhote

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Ms. Lhote was born in Paris, and recently moved to the beautiful borough of Brooklyn after living in London for the last 12 years. She used to play keyboards for various bands including Stereolab, The Projects, and Garden. Nowadays, she enjoys loafing around with her cats, playing Final Fantasy games on the PS3, and being a freelance writer.

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