It took 17 years to hoist this animated prime-time gem to the big screen. Now there's an example of monetary patience unheard of in Hollywood. Faced with impossible expectations from a fanbase that's memorized every last breath of the show, "The Simpsons Movie" proudly marches into theaters with widescreen glory worthy of such an iconic program. My friends, there is no "Ha-ha!" to be found here.
When Homer makes a critical error in judgment and dumps a silo of pig excrement into Springfield's lake, the community is immediately quarantined as an environmental hazard, and President Schwarzenegger orders the town enclosed in a protective glass dome. Now the object of immense hatred in the neighborhood, Homer barely escapes the wrath of the locals to figure out a solution to the problem at hand, traveling to Alaska to clear his mind and start over. For Marge, Bart, and Lisa, questions about Homer's place in their hearts arise, leaving Bart to seek a new father in the waiting arms of Ned Flanders.
When "South Park" and "Beavis and Butt-Head" made the leap from the small screen to multiplex stardom, the productions wisely elected to take the most fantastical direction possible, be it a road trip across America or a full-on, say-hey Broadway musical. "The Simpsons Movie" doesn't play by those same expectations, because, well...they've done it all over the last two decades. There's little material left for this franchise to toy with, so the producers have decided to keep the ingredients familiar to best please fan and non-fan alike.
Of course, there's a mild, creeping disappointment that that movie doesn't reach for the comedy heavens at first. Perhaps expectation is the wet blanket draped over this film: when it comes down to the finer details, "Movie" is a thoroughly entertaining, frequently hilarious, fanboy wink convention that pleases endlessly by sticking close to the formula that made the show an immortal animated classic.
The plot is undemanding, straight-up Homer monkey business, but the screenwriters find much to bat around during the 85-minute running time. A majority of the laughs originate from the sparkly new big-screen treatment, with "Movie" taking shots at filmgoing culture and embracing its new PG-13 freedom. Let's just say if you've even wanted to hear Marge curse lightly, Otto partake in his favorite pastime, or witness big screen Bart nudity, here's your shot.
The rest of the picture settles into an extended episode of the show, throwing in some guest stars (including Green Day and Albert Brooks, who kills here as a wicked EPA overlord), shovelfuls of "Simpsons" community throwaway gags (is Ralph officially gay now?), and maintaining a sharp satiric aim toward politics and religion. If the argument is tiresome familiarity, I counter with the kindness of comfort. "Movie" doesn't challenge the franchise as much as it kicks back and embraces what 17 years have accomplished. To me, that's a helluva lot of comedic ammo to entertain with, and "The Simpsons Movie" pulls off pure yellow magic.
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