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Guilty Pleasures

The Simpsons Movie

Director: David Silverman

Writers: (Get Ready)
James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti

Main Voice Cast:
Dan Castellaneta – Homer Simpson, Itchy, Barney
    Gumble, Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown,
    Mayor Quimby, Sideshow Mel, Santa's Little Helper,
    Squeaky-Voiced Teen
Julie Kavner
– Marge Simpson
Nancy Cartwright
– Bart Simpson, Maggie Simpson,
    Ralph Wiggum, Nelson, Todd Flanders
Yeardley Smith
– Lisa Simpson
Harry Shearer
– Scratchy, Montgomery Burns,
    Rev. Lovejoy, Ned Flanders, Lenny, President
    Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kent Brockman,
    Principal Skinner, Dr. Hibbert, Waylon Smithers,
    Otto Mann, Kang
Hank Azaria
– Professor Frink, Comic Book Guy,
    Moe, Chief Wiggum, Carl, Cletus, Bumblebee Man,
    Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Sea Captain,
    Dr. Nick Riviera
Marcia Wallace
– Edna Krabappel
Albert. Brooks
– Russ Cargill
Tress MacNeille
– Mrs. Skinner, Pig, Medicine Woman
Pamela Hayden ... Milhouse Van Houten, Rod Flanders
Joe Mantegna
– Fat Tony

Running time: 87 Minutes



To sum up:  Remember  that one Simpsons episode? You know the one where Homer screws up? And then he say's, "D'oh!"? Yeah, that one. Well, this movie's pretty much like that.

“Homer do good?”  
“Actually, you've doomed us all. Again.”

     I would consider myself a pretty hard core Simpsons fan. By that I mean that as the series has permeated into and helped define American culture, so too has the series permeated into and helped define me as an individual. By that I mean that as a circumstance will present itself in my life, I will often be reminded of the series, and a reference or direct quote (usually from Homer) will spring to mind. By that I mean that the series, at its peak, was a near perfect prism of comedy, social commentary, scathing wit, parody, cultural reflection, analysis and comedic pacing. And by that I mean that the series should have been cancelled ten years ago.

     I will explain this seeming contradiction in a moment. But for now, with great glee, I must state that even though it took forever, even though the series has been around for almost nineteen years, even though the show's ratings are no longer at the pinnacle they used to be, which combined, call into question the very need of making a motion picture based on "The Simpsons" television show, the creators of the film have triumphed wonderfully beyond my expectations.

     As is usual for the Simpsons, the film takes a rather circuitous route to get to the central plot of the film. Homer Jay Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) falls in love with a pig and procures him as a pet. Homer loves his new portly pal, to the exclusion of all around him. But the results of this self absorbed relationship sets off a series of events that build upon one another until it creates an ecological disaster that alienates Homer from his wife, Marge (Julie Kavner), who has trouble fathoming why she stays loyal to this idiotic, egocentric husband; his daughter, Lisa (Yeardley Smith), who was attempting to stave off said ecological disaster; his son, Bart (Nancy Cartwright), who begins to yearn for a father more like nerdy, next-door-neighbor, Ned Flanders (Harry Shearer); and the entire town of Springfield, which has been quarantined from the rest of the country thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency plopping a dome over the city to seal it in and prevent the spread of the dreaded disaster. Now it's up to Homer to understand, and hopefully resolve, all of these problems that resulted from his powerfully platonic porcine pairing.

     All of this is done in a supremely entertaining fashion. It has been well chronicled the amount of effort that has gone into the film. Many hours resulted in the script being written, rewritten, revised, changed, altered, reconceived, reworked, modified, and redrafted for a rough total of 158 times. The voice actors spent many hours doing multiple takes, when for the television show two or three would usually suffice. It has been said that Julie Kavner did 100 takes for one line. The animation, always crude in look, but smooth in motion, improves on both levels, and translates well onto the big screen.

     The result is not necessarily the best cinematic comedy in years, but the laughs, which range from the absurdly simple theme of "Spider Pig" to the educationally complex idea (in America, anyway) of toying with the geographic location of Springfield, come at a far more frequent pace than I was expecting. It is also not the best Simpsons episode ever. I will say this, though; it is on par with the best episodes of the series. But while watching, I noticed that the film served as a reminder of how great the television show once was and no longer is.

     It is here that I will explain the seeming contradiction of my opening statement. In art , sports, music (choose your medium), all greatness hits its stride; the point when the creative outlet is so great as to appear effortless. It could be the athlete who seems almost godlike in the execution of his sport, the composer who produces a prodigious amount of musical exploration that breathes new life into symphonic music, or the writers of The Simpsons, who churn out a series of stories, each more brilliant than the last. I do not deny the amount of hard work that is required during these times, but the genius behind it has hit its stride, working like a well oiled machine. These creators were "in a groove". The show had this brilliance during, in my opinion, seasons 3-8.

     But as with all creativity, the show finally hit its peak. Whether from a loss of certain writers or the fact that the show dictated that things should be reset to the status quo at the end of each episode; the endless speculations will not be made here. What is evident, is that the cutting edge pacing and wit is much harder to find in The Simpsons nowadays and while still funny, there is a lack of energy; a pedestrian nature to the show.

     Not so with the movie. It flows with a momentum that almost never wavers and comedy that remains sharply on target. The problem is that it took so much work, so many hours, so much restructuring, to achieve a level of brilliance that, while it is on par with the series at its apex, it also serves to remind you of the ease with which they were able to do it on a weekly basis.

Best. Simpsons. Movie. Ever.

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