(No longer in theaters)
Richard Sakai, Julie Thacker
20th Century Fox
Jul 27, 2007
There’s a disarming in-joke at the start of The Simpsons Movie when Homer ridicules the audience at Itchy and Scratchy’s cinematic debut for paying to see something they could get on TV for free. It’s a mystery why the writers who grappled with that issue didn’t go for broke the way Trey Parker and Matt Stone did in the peerless South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut—a true cartoon epic, and the best movie musical comedy of the last decade. The Simpsons Movie is longer, more plot-driven, and has more showy animation than an average episode. It’s intermittently very funny. But it doesn’t make the existential leap to the big screen, and it doesn’t have the density of gags or the lunatic free-association of the best episodes. Like The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, it’s less than the sum of its laughs.
My ideal Simpsons movie would center on the less predictable characters, Bart and Lisa, but for some reason Homer gets the spotlight here. Why build a movie around him? The voracious Cartman on South Park is like a character out of Volpone; he has sleazeball stature. Hank Hill of King of the Hill is a befuddled Everyman who’s somehow both smaller and larger than life. SpongeBob’s childishness is transcendent. But Homer remains a boob, a thickie, a foil for his kids and chiding but devoted wife. His character “arc”—he has to learn to be less selfish and save Springfield from being nuked—doesn’t yield any fresh insight into the human condition. One gag does, though: When what looks like a huge spaceship hovers over Springfield, the people in a church run screaming into the bar next door while the people in the bar run screaming into the church. I thought about that five-second image for a long time—over shots of Wild Turkey 101.