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Does whatever a spider-pig does
A capsule review of THE SIMPSONS MOVIE by Camus
Maggie Simpson's (second) first and last word


On rainy days this holiday, my son hooked himself up to the Mac and revelled in season upon season of our beloved, yellow, dysfunctional family. To tell the truth, it got to the stage where if I heard Elfman's gleeful explosion of a theme tune one more time I would have lowered the laptop lid and politely asked him to get wet in the interests of paterfamilias sanity. To my credit I have never strangled him with a hearty cry of "Why you little..." So I approached the movie with some trepidation. Was I Homered out, Marged too thin? Was the state of the Bart, 18 seasons on, just too much for me? Mainstream tends to swallow up and drown the subversive and irreverent if it stays around long enough. Die hard fans recognised a levelling out of the quality of the scripts and held tightly to their early seasons box sets. How could a movie even attempt to hit the highs of the 4th season and justify itself as a full blown feature?

It would have been worth it for a single hyphenated word: "spider-pig".

The movie is an unalloyed joy and the first comedy for a long, long time that plastered a permanent smile on my chops throughout. When I wasn't smiling I was laughing and the laughs came regularly enough for me to hear the final joke (Maggie's "Sequel!") and hope it happens. Simply put, this is widescreen Homer and the man comes through for himself, his family and more importantly us. The plot is too much fun for me to spoil it here but let's just say after Homer does something reckless in the heat of his ardent passion for free doughnuts, the US government seals up Springfield as an environmental disaster area. Fleeing from their hometown, our family set up shop elsewhere but must return to save the whole town from annihilation. Yes, that ought to do it, spoiling no gags in the process.

The script went through many drafts over many years and one imagines many skilled writers each trying to top each other. They must have burned themselves out to a frazzle in the process. But it was worth it. Smartly, it's a Simpsons' Simpsons, that is to say the hundreds of other characters get their brief movie moments but it's Homer and company's show. Yes, the social commentary and US-critiques are all there though not as savage in satire as it might have been. This is a small gripe. The animation is top notch (yes, there are a lot of computer generated backgrounds and digital assistance but it feels correctly 2D) and it looks gorgeous (particularly if you're lucky enough to see it in a digital theatre on an enormous screen as I was lucky to at the Kinopolis in Brussels). Hans Zimmer's music is suitably heroic though rarely bombastic and the real kicker is the emotion threaded through the comic overload. The love between Homer and Marge (and Homer and Bart) is tested as it must be and I admit to one or two tears shed in the softer more heartfelt moments. But what the movie does at every turn is confound any expectations you may have and gleefully subverts a punch line into something funnier every-time. And boy, is it fast. The gags for their own sake never pull the narrative up short and as the end of the world is nigh, the wide shot of the church's congregation all running into Mo's tavern while Mo's regulars all sprint into the church is one of my favourite oh-so typical Simpson's moments.

If you're a hard core fan, you've seen it twice by now. But there must be a lot of soft core fans out there too. As of this writing, the movie has made $26 million (not that much?) in the UK alone! But then there is Spider-Pig, doing whatever a Spider-Pig does and as I said, his scenes are worth the admission price alone. Oh, and there is a priceless 'D'oh!' moment! Oh, just go and see it - with an audience. It makes all the difference.

The Simpsons Movie

USA 2007
87 mins
David Silverman
James L. Brooks
Matt Groening
Al Jean
Richard Sakai
Mike Scully
James L. Brooks
Joel Cohen
John Fink
Matt Groening
Al Jean
Tim Long
Ian Maxtone-Graham
George Meyer
David Mirkin
Michael Price
Mike Reiss
Mike Scully
Matt Selman
John Schwartzwelder
Jon Vitti
Chris Gill
Hans Zimmer
Dan Castellaneta
Julie Kavner
Nancy Cartwright
Yeardley Smith
Harry Shearer
Hank Azaria
Marcia Wallace
review posted
1 August 2007