Starring: The voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria. Rated
It’s taken 18 years, but television’s most famously
dysfunctional family has finally made their long-anticipated leap to the big screen, even as their weekly exploits on FOX
have begun to run dry of inspiration.
Maybe creator Matt Groening and his dream team of acerbic writers
waited too long: The Simpsons Movie only sporadically harnesses the boundless creative energy and satirical edge that
earned his series its reputation as one of the most sophisticated comedies in TV history. For fans, however, it is a gift
Although the story sheds little light on the ever-evolving mythology
of a show that has become ingrained in the public consciousness, that should come as no surprise to the fan base. The Simpsons
has always relied on loose, disconnected narratives that provide the framework for surreal pratfalls and improbable crises,
and the movie does the same. It follows the clan as they relocate to Alaska, forced to move after Homer imperils Springfield
by polluting its river with pig feces.
Ridiculous? Of course. While the Simpsons have always been grounded
in something loosely akin to reality, that’s never stopped them from stumbling into the unlikeliest situations, whether
Homer was blasting off into space with Buzz Aldrin or winning a Grammy for his barbershop quartet. This is theater of the
gloriously absurd, tempered by keen dialogue and sociopolitical commentary sharper, at its best, than anything else on the
Here, the political satire is aimed not at the current administration,
but at President Schwarzenegger, who, by his own, thickly accented account, was “elected to lead, not to read.”
It’s a throwaway line, modestly amusing but drawing no blood. Gone are the days when Homer waxed philosophical (in wholly
uncharacteristic but oddly incisive fashion) about the machinery of capitalism being oiled by the blood of the workers. These
are kinder, gentler Simpsons, the sort that another president, George H.W. Bush, might even have appreciated.
If Groening and company have lost some zip off their fastball, they
still bring enough heat to satisfy those weaned on the adventures of Homer and family. Much as it hurts to admit, The Simpsons
is no longer television’s premiere source of subversive social commentary, even as it strives to remain relevant by
tackling hot-button issues like creationism and global warming. It’s hardly toothless, but it lacks its onetime ferocity.
Likewise, The Simpsons Movie is more sentimental than scathing.
Watching Homer, the quintessential buffoonish dad, scrambling to save Springfield and his fractured family (and surviving
a hallucinogenic trip over the frigid Alaskan tundra in the process) provides plenty of chuckles, if not belly laughs. More
than anything, though, the film is a funny, poignant testament to the strength of an American family that may not always get
along, but, even in the worst of times, somehow endures.