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This review was written for the theatrical release of “The Simpsons Movie.”
“The Simpsons Movie” is everything a fan of the 18-year-old animated Fox television series could ask for. But then, Homer Simpson opens the movie by calling everyone in the audience “giant suckers” for paying to see what they get for free on TV. Looks like the world is full of giant suckers. Maybe some will download the movie or buy a pirated version just to feel better about being suckers. Even calculating theft into the equation — along with the possibility that more than a few nonfans might want to catch the Simpsons on the big screen — “The Simpsons Movie” looks like a winner for 20th Century Fox and Gracie Films.
In going for boxoffice gold, the Simpsons’ trusted and loyal crew — the multitude of writers, producers and director David Silverman are series veterans — have labored long and hard to make a movie that hearkens back to the vintage years of the series. It’s caustic, irreverent, constantly amusing and a tiny bit rude. Not a lot, though. This isn’t the “Beavis and Butt-Head” or “South Park” movie. It’s almost — dare I say it — charming.
For awhile, nothing much happens, so you might think you are watching a TV segment blown up large. Grandpa makes a prophesy while speaking in tongues in church, but no one can understand what he said. Then Homer gets it into his mind to acquire a pet pig. Cue the pig jokes, some of which have already appeared in trailers.
Meanwhile, a cute subplot finds Lisa, the family conscience, campaigning to clean up the hugely polluted Springfield lake. Against all odds, she succeeds, and the lake is declared off-limits to all dumpers. Even the local mafia agrees not to dump bodies there.
But Homer hasn’t paid any attention. So when it comes time to get rid of the pet pig’s poop, you know where he is going to pitch it. The result is the worst pollution in the U.S. This causes Environmental Protection Agency head Russ Cargill (nicely voiced by Albert Brooks) to convince President Schwarzenegger — you have a problem with an Austrian accent? — to put a giant unbreakable glass dome over the entire town.
Boy, are the town folks mad at the Simpsons now. A mob chases the family from its home. Using a sink hole discovered by baby Maggie, the family escapes the dome and moves to Alaska. Cue the Alaska jokes, which are among the weaker ones in the movie, before everyone goes back to Springfield. Now Homer actually can save the town, which Cargill means to blow up.
Laughs come in all sizes — large, medium, small and failed, the latter happening only seldom. While little has been gained in bringing the Simpsons to the screen, other than a bigger canvas requiring a much larger army of animators, it’s still fun to enjoy the crew in this new setting.
All the regular voice actors — which include Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer performing multiple roles, as well as Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith — are in fine form. The animation is still stiff TV animation but why mess with a familiar look? By the way, Tom Hanks puts in a good-natured cartoon appearance, and this pretty much sums up the Simpsons’ first foray into movies: It’s good-natured.
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
20th Century Fox
A Gracie Films production of a Matt Groening production
Director: David Silverman
Screenwriters: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Schwartzwelder, Jon Vitti
Producers: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully, Richard Sakai
Music: Hans Zimmer
Supervising producer: Richard Raynis
Sequence directors: Mike B. Anderson, Lauran MacMullan, Rich Moore, Steven Dean Moore
Editor: John Carnochan
Homer/Itchy/Barney/Grandpa: Dan Castellaneta
Marge: Julie Kavner
Bart/Maggie/Ralph/Nelson: Nancy Cartwright
Lisa: Yeardley Smith
Scratchy/Mr. Burns/Rev. Lovejoy/Ned Flanders/President Schwarzenegger: Harry Shearer
Professor Frink/Moe/Chief Wiggum/Lou: Hank Azaria
Russ Cargill: Albert Brooks
Running time — 86 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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