(released in US theaters July 27, 2007)
This is it. The Simpsons Movie. Any fan of the show from its inception was awaiting this day. As a kid, I remember wondering when it was coming out, and what it would be about. I hoped that my mom would let me go see it, as I knew it would hold a PG-13 rating. But it wouldn’t be until the end of my high school days before it would finally see a release. In the spring of 2006, seemingly legitimate rumors began cropping up of the movie possibly being a reality. One voice actor mentioned he read the script. Another said he had recorded lines for it. Bunk, I said. I’ll believe it when I see it. Then it came: an official release date, of July of the following summer. I was absolutely psyched. There were sneak peek clips from that year’s ComicCon. Teasers, posters and trailers started coming out through the year into the next. Regardless of my waning interest in the series at that time, I was fucking excited.
And what perfect timing; I graduated high school in June 2007, and was about to leave New Jersey to attend the University of Florida. The Simpsons had been such a big part of my life up to that point, and one of the last things I did with my friends in Jersey was go see The Simpsons Movie at midnight. It was almost like closing the book on one era of my fandom in a way. It was a pretty packed theater, a lot of people clearly super fans of the show. I remember at 11:55 or so, I turned to my best friend and said, “You realize we’re about to see a Simpsons movie, right?” I just got this surreal feeling, this movie, this event I had been waiting years to see, and I was a mere five minutes away from finally experiencing it. Well, after the trailers of course. And then it happened… The Simpsons Movie. Ninety minutes later, I walked out pretty satisfied. I saw it one more time with a friend who couldn’t make it to the midnight show, and one or two times more on DVD. But I hadn’t seen it in full in at least a good four years.So how do I even start this review? I guess by saying that I think that I lean more toward liking the film more than I don’t, and I’ll boil down the specifics as I go. To surmise in a succinct way, it’s basically a better-than-average extended episode, but since the average show nowadays is total garbage, that’s not exactly the highest praise. It’s just I remember some critics saying the movie recaptures the magic of the show’s most formative years, and was a return to form to the classic era. So, is this movie on par with seasons 1-8? Fuuuuuck no. Make no mistake, this is a Zombie Simpsons movie, and it has its fair share of problems associated with it because of it. Despite the things I like about it, I’m plagued by a humungous “what could have been,” thinking of how amazing a movie would have been if it were made sometime after season 8 or so. And ended the series. What a world it would have been…
Let me get the plot out of the way first, though I’m sure everyone reading must know it. Springfield faces an ecological crisis and the whole town gets together to pitch in and do their part to clean house. But the local lake is so deathly polluted that it doesn’t take much to push it over the top, like Homer dumping an entire silo of pig feces, courtesy of his newly beloved pet Plopper (or, Spider-Pig). This alerts the attention of the Environment Protection Agency, run by a power-mad Russ Cargill, who convinces President Arnold Schwarzenegger to quarantine the town indefinitely within a giant dome. When Homer is exposed as the responsible party, everyone in town is out for the Simpsons’ blood. The family manages to escape, and go forward with Homer’s fail safe plan he formulated just in case he ruined their lives: move to Alaska. Soon after that, they learn the government plans in destroying Springfield, but Homer is adamant about not returning after being run out. Marge and the kids leave him behind, and ultimately Homer realizes what he has to do: to redeem himself and win back his family, he must save Springfield. And he does. Hoorah.I must express my sympathy to the writers on some regard: the task of writing a Simpsons movie could not have been easy. At this point, every fan has hopes and expectations of nearly every aspect of it, and not everyone can be satisfied. So I feel any premise this movie could have had will be open for scrutiny… but the one they landed on just doesn’t feel right to me. Springfield vs. the Government, who traps them in a gigantic glass dome, constructed only God-knows-where. The movie follows the Simpsons on the run, and for two-thirds of the running time we barely see any of the rest of the cast. It just felt weird to me that Springfield played such a large role in the story, yet its inhabitants feel so absent. The Simpsons has become this crazy ensemble show with such a great cast of characters, and all of them go underutilized. Now, of course, cramming in jokes and lines for characters just so they can be in the movie is no good, but couldn’t the plot have been more focused on the town? You already have a great villain in Mr. Burns, friends of the Simpson family that can help them on their quest…. I found myself missing characters as they would show up on screen for about five seconds before we cut back to the Simpsons again.
The main thrust of the story centers around, big shock, Homer, and his character turn of not being such a selfish jerk and to do unto others. Yep, the star of many seasons, Jerkass Homer is very much present in the movie, but to be fair, dulled down to a less extreme level. But having his son face juvenile court in lieu of attending a one-hour parenting session after a prank that he instigated, and forcing him to walk around in public without pants on is pretty rough. Later, when it’s announced that Springfield is going to be destroyed, he’s adamant about not returning to help, even though he’s solely responsible for dooming the town in the first place. At least we see that he suffers consequences for his actions in that this is what causes Marge and the kids to leave him, thus leading to his grand epiphany. But as our star, and the one we should root for in the end, it’s still difficult to really feel for or side with Homer; he’s still a far way gone from the lovable lug I used to know from the classic years.The other family members have their own little scraps of story. Marge allows herself to once again get bamboozled by Homer’s nonsense, leaves him for the “last time,” and of course they get back together in the end. Meanwhile, Lisa gets a disposable love interest who will never see again ever. The biggest, and most peculiar, subplot involves Bart developing a kinship with Flanders. After being betrayed and then ignored by his own father, Bart begins to yearn for the type of kindly, non-abusive parenting utilized by his neighbor. I really want to see or understand where they were going for with this, but it doesn’t work for me at all. It’s like they had to severely neuter Bart to get this to work; why would he give a shit about having a decent father figure? And he forlornly looks in at Flanders tucking his kids in tightly (“Huh. So that’s what ‘snug’ is.”) Marge mothers him all the time, and moreover, like any ten-year-old boy, he’s annoyed by it. This leads up until the very end, when Springfield is minutes from total destruction, he approaches Flanders like a wounded puppy with a small request (“I was just wondering, before I died, I could have a father who cared for me.”) It feels so un-Bart, I just can’t buy into this.
Humor-wise, the movie’s pretty much a mixed bag. There’s quite a few works that hit their marks really well, and others that… don’t so much. Used (and over-used) of course is Homer getting injured; why spend time wracking your brain writing clever material when you can have Homer pierce his eye with a hammer or fall through the roof? Due to being locked down in the dome, the side characters only end up with a few token scenes, that aren’t hysterical, but leave you wanting to see more of them. That just leaves the antics of the Simpson family, which at times is amusing, but nothing really we haven’t seen a thousand times before, and the stuff with Russ Cargill, who, thanks to a fantastic performance by Albert Brooks, provides some of the best laughs of the movie. But of all the gags in the whole film, I’d say only 20% of them really triggered a genuine laugh out of me, which is a bigger ratio than the episodes now, but sorrily low considering you’d think they’d have stepped up their game on a feature film.But here’s the most important factor in all of this: there’s this odd feeling I got through almost the entire movie. It had this calculated, airless quality to it, an aura I just couldn’t figure out. But my explanation comes thanks to the film’s DVD commentary. For almost the entire running time, Al Jean and the gaggle of writers continually discuss jokes and scenes that were cut, re-timed, trimmed down or restaged, all of a result of one thing: test screenings. They talk about how they repeatedly held previews with audiences across the country, and how they seemed transfixed on their reaction to every single frame of the film. Some schlub in Portland didn’t snicker at a line? Change it. One girl had a glazed look over this scene? Cut it out. Through this process, it feels like the movie was hacked to shreds and pieced back together so many times that a lot of stuff ended up getting lost. Like Grampa’s prophecy involves “a thousand eyes,” which originally was referring to a group of many mutated woodland critters, but now that it’s just the one squirrel, it doesn’t really make any sense.
In the end, I felt kind of sad listening to them talk about this. In its beginnings, The Simpsons was a show commandeered by snarky young comedy writers who were confident in their abilities to discern what is funny amongst themselves, threw out network notes and wanted to make something daring and subversive. This environment, I believe, is what made the show so great; they were confident they could make an entertaining, funny, heartwarming show. The difference here couldn’t be more stark; multiple times they mention jokes and scenes that they all loved, but removed immediately once one or two test audiences didn’t respond as well as they liked. Most filmmakers abhor focus groups, as they have their own creative vision and want to see it through. Meanwhile, these guys not only love them, but it became their crux. Another thing that burns me up is just the limitless potential of this project. Eighteen years of brand recognition means that the writers could have done anything with this movie. It would have had a $70 million opening regardless what it was about because it was The Simpsons Movie. Rather than use that opportunity to do something a bit risky or out-of-the-norm, instead, they went the safest route possible. But look! Marge said “goddamn” and Otto’s using a bong! Damn, we’re irreverent. The MPAA told us so.Most of this review has basically been me tearing this movie a new asshole… so why would I say I ultimately like it more than I don’t? Well, as shoddy as the story and the script are, everything else shines the whole way through. Director David Silverman and his team of artists and animators give their A-game on the film, delivering one gorgeous looking movie. The purposely crude style of the show looks great in HD, mostly due to the time and care that went into the animation, the backgrounds, the effects, everything (when the series went to HD on a TV budget… that’s a story for later). Silverman steps up from TV to film in his direction, giving us a number of interesting, dynamic shots. The voice actors give it their all, and composer Hans Zimmer supplies an amazing, heartfelt score, and them together manage to elevate and push further some of the more important scenes that would have just laid there dead with just the script alone.
Part of this whole blog’s purpose was to rip off the nostalgia goggles and take a look at the series from my current-day point-of-view. As I’ve seen, it’s astonishing how absolutely dreadful the show has been for the last ten years, and the movie definitely reflects that to a degree. It makes so little an impact, and the commentary definitely has reasons that point to why… but I just can’t hate it like I do the rest of the series. It’s largely disappointing, and irritating in hearing the writers’ almost terrified relationship with its audience, but I can’t tear part of myself away from the fact that I finally, after so many years of waiting, got to see a Simpsons movie. It looked great, it sounded great… the script was clunky and all over the place… but at least it finally happened. I guess you can consider this the most apathetic recommendation ever. And I’d barely even call it a recommendation.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like the Itchy & Scratchy at the beginning, with use of more extreme poses and the JFK references. The commentary illustrates a bizarre mentality from Al Jean right away: he recollects that they expected humungous applause from the audience when Scratchy turns around to reveal himself as the first on-screen character of the movie. He was stunned to find in the first test screening, “you could literally hear the crickets.” This explains a lot about not just the movie, but also the series: apparently people just want to see their favorite characters. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense for them to be there, or if they have anything funny to say or do, just throw them up on screen and those morons will lap it up.
– I did like that no less than five minutes into the film, we’ve killed and are holding a funeral for Green Day, and Lovejoy mourns the passing of yet another rock band in their town. It’s a rare moment of teeth for a show that nowadays has celebrities on just to kiss their already lipstick-smeared asses.
– I’ve just recently mentioned the poor 2D-3D integration on the show lately. There’s plenty of CG-assisted shots here, but largely they all work quite well. There’s a few that don’t, most that unfortunately are at the beginning, with the family getting out of the car and Homer and Bart on the roof, but most of the time it feels seamless and blends in well enough.
– Within the thousand iterations of this script, at one point Lisa’s romance was going to be with Milhouse, until they found test audiences, of course, were not familiar with the relationship between the two. I just can’t see that working at all; Lisa falling for Milhouse? Get out of here.
– The long set-up and payoff to showing Bart’s dick is actually really funny, as is him smacking into the glass in front of the Flanderses, and Lou having to remove him with a squeegee (“Listen, kid, nobody likes wearing clothes in public, but, you know, it’s the law.”) The movie is actually pretty good until that pesky plot kicks in.
– I like how giddy Homer is about Plopper, and in turn, how completely blank-eyed and clueless the pig looks at all times. He invests so much love into that animal, yet in the end he ends up nudging the plank over when the family tries to escape from the mob. And then we never see it again.
– In the commentary they keep talking about how almost every scene and joke was put in “fairly late” or “at the last minute,” but the bit with Homer electrocuting the fish, and then himself? There almost since day one. Why tamper with comedic gold like that?
– Oh, the legacy of Spider-Pig. It became the anthem of this movie. I’m still really fond of the eerie choir version played over the epiphany scene.
– Moe’s “This is why we should hate kids!” at the town hall meeting really made me laugh.
– The Fat Tony appearance, Cletus unable to pollute the lake, Homer heimliching the cell phone out of Plopper’s gullet, Homer driving through a divider, then smashing through another one when he flees the lake… a lot of these jokes really do work at the beginning.
– I’m fine with Rainier Wolfcastle essentially subbing in as President Schwarzenegger. He gets in a fair share of good lines (“I was elected to lead, not to read!”)
– Again, I try not to be a stickler with continuity, but the writers talk about how much care they put into the movie, coming up with floor plans and mapping out the town, yet they miss (or more likely, didn’t care about) some big stuff. Right when the dome is put over the town, we see that the Simpson house is right up against it from the back and the side. That makes Evergreen Terrace not even a cul-de-sac, the road just ends to the right of the house. So, what, they live on the very edge of town. In every other episode, and even later in this movie, we see that that’s not true. Then of course is the church right next to Moe’s joke, which I don’t mind (except that they made it ‘Moe’s Bar’ so no dummies in the audience would miss out), but then later in the movie, we see the church is right up against the dome too with Moe’s nowhere in sight. Like, whatever. Who gives a shit.
– I kind of like how they destroyed the Simpson house. Not that it matters, considering it’s going to be rebuilt just as it was next season, but it’s so iconic of the series it was kind of unusually jarring seeing it completely decimated.
– In the commentary, the writers are insistent that Homer isn’t a jerk because he has a idiotic “back-up plan” of going to Alaska. I guess that makes up for everything else in the movie, and the entire series, then, huh? Homer is so reckless and careless, that he expects he’ll do something that will ruin his family’s life, so he has this fallback?
– The gas station gag with Bart defacing the wanted poster and the bizarro Simpson family appearing is pretty well executed.
– There’s a few time cuts that don’t make much sense in the movie: the Alaska scene where it appears to be daytime as Homer is avalanched into the house, then immediately into the sex scene we see that it’s sundown.
– Nice appearance by the gay steel mill workers amongst those trying to bust out of the dome.
– There’s a lot of great Cargill lines, but this may be my favorite (“Knowing things is overrated. Anyone can pick something when they know what it is. It takes real leadership to pick something you’re clueless about.”)
– I like the Tom Hanks cameo (“The U.S. government has lost its credibility so it’s borrowing some of mine.”)
– The Marge video tape is extremely painful to watch, given her breakup with Homer is explained with very valid reasons (“Lately. what’s keeping us together is my ability to overlook everything you do. And l overlook these things because… well, that’s the thing. I just don’t know how to finish that sentence anymore.”) Neither do I. Which is what makes her inevitable return to this dumb oaf all the worse. But you know, that ending with the swell of music and gorgeous animation of the two of them kissing on the motorcycle… I bought it. Goddamn, I bought it.
– The National Security Agency bit… little too on-the-nose (“Hey, everybody, I found one! The government actually found someone we’re looking for!”)
– The epiphany sequence is really well directed, it looks really neat. And seeing Homer get ripped to pieces is karmically satisfying in a weird way.
– Homer and the wrecking ball… very gratuitous. But I do love the crummy road signs (“Look, we can’t keep stopping at every ‘Sop,’ ‘Yeld,’ or ‘One Vay’ sign.”)
– More from the commentary: test audiences found both the epiphany scene and the utter decimation of the town to be “too scary.” What? They toned down the backgrounds for the latter, which is really bizarre to me. The point is that Springfield is a ravaged town, you’re supposed to feel somewhat uneasy as the Simpsons are. But heaven forbid this movie should elicit an emotional reaction, so they held back.
– I really don’t like Marge’s “goddamn bomb” line. Not for the language, but I felt that she shouldn’t have been seen until after Homer accomplished his goal and won her back. He sees her from afar, but is only reunited after he earns it. Instead, Marge just comes out of nowhere and swears, and it’s funny because she normally doesn’t. And of course, Otto smoking a bong. Funny!
– Like the callback to “Bart the Daredevil” where Homer and Bart finally make it over the gorge, just barely.
– I’m sure there’s more I can discuss, but this post is already so frigging long. Unusually most of these tidbits have been pretty fawning over things that worked and lines that were funny. That’s what’s so weird about this movie: individual scenes and jokes are amusing to think back on, but put all together it largely doesn’t work. Eh. Whatever. Only two more seasons to go with this crap.
54 thoughts on “The Simpsons Movie”
You’re absolutely right on this one.
I’ve never listened to a commentary on it. It would be interesting also hearing more from the other writers how James Brooks contributed (and mucked it about?). Of course I’m referring to John Ortved’s book, and the supposition Brooks wanted to feel on top again after coming off of his flop Spanglish.
Not all producers are of equal standing, so of course Brooks must have wielded the most power in the room. I’m wondering if his sense of humour, and his ideas on what works, was overriding the other writers who were more familiar and talented with the Simpsons.
You may or may not want to watch the commentary. They pause the movie frequently to discuss various intricacies of certain scenes for lengthy amounts of time. The pause after the Marge video lasts upwards of ten minutes. What’s worse is that you have to start the movie over if you want to shut off the commentary. My advice: Speed past the freezes during the commentary.
I -loved- this movie when I saw it in theaters, but I suspect part of that was due to being ecstatic that I was seeing a Simpsons movie on the big screen. When I watched it on Blu-ray a couple years later, it wasn’t as good. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film (it’s certainly better than a lot of the episodes in the last few seasons up to that point), but since the euphoria/anticipation had worn off, I could view it in a more objective stance.
You made some very good points as to why it feels a bit underwhelming. Despite the visual grandness of the premise, it really doesn’t take advantage of the townspeople all that much; a lot of them feel inserted in there purely for fanservice (sort of like Where’s Waldo? of Simpsons characters) rather than actually doing something clever with them. And yeah, a lot of the humor felt very “modern Simpsons” in exeuction (I refuse to call it “Zombie Simpsons”). I can’t say much of the physical comedy of Homer getting hurt does much for me nowadays.
Spiderpig is actually one of my least favorite aspects of the film. It doesn’t help that at the screening, there were some kids who sang along with Homer’s Spiderman parody (and recited other lines while the movie played, for that matter). I felt like saying, “I didn’t pay $7.50 to hear you re-enact the movie.”
I didn’t like Hans Zimmer replaced Alf Clausen for the movie. Alf’s work on the series has such an iconic “feel” that hearing someone imitate him just feels jarring.
But now for positives. One of the biggest laughs in the film is when Homer gives the finger to the townspeople as he is sucked down the sinkhole. The unexpected gag of Bart’s penis was well-executed. Even though the gag can be seen coming, I did like all the people slamming the door on Lisa in the beginning; it was timed well. And while it’s lost its impact from the total surprise it was in the theaters, I do still enjoy the Fox advertising at the bottom of the screen in one scene.
And Marge’s “goodbye” video to Homer is still one of the better aspects of the film. You -never- hear Marge’s vocal inflections like that in the series, so it was quite an eyebrow-raising moment.
This movie had quite a few sequence directors. A few years ago, I interviewed Rich Moore (one of the former directors on the show, and sequence director for the movie) and he told me one of the scenes he directed was when Homer rides the motorcycle in the cage. Good stuff.
Clausen said something about being replaced in this film that I (probably paraphrase) quote (or misquote) often: “Sometimes you’re the fly, sometimes you’re the windshield.” That ideology really resonates with me, irregardless of the context. “Spider-Pig” (the scene, the song, the character, everything) kinda sucked, though the big grand orchestral version of his theme song during Homer’s trip was pretty cool.
Anyway, I liked this film in theaters. I found it quite boring on DVD. Then, I caught it randomly on FX one morning and thought it was good again. So, I dunno. It’s certainly not GREAT, but it’s not horrible/cringe-worthy for its entire duration. I guess it just depends on my mood — yeah, you could say that about anything, ever, but truly, I put on seasons 1-8 of the Simpsons when I’m in a shitty mood and it usually genuinely makes me happy. This film doesn’t make me happy, but it doesn’t make me upset. It mainly makes me feel sad at times, because it feels like it could’ve and should’ve been truly excellent. …
Re: James L. Brooks, yeah, this film does seem a bit more “emotional” in parts, which has to be his touch. But the guy made “Broadcast News”, so I can never hate the prick. Honestly, at the time, I was thinking, ‘Why isn’t the villain just Hank Scorpio and why is the president not just President Wolfcastle? If they’re going to cater to the fans in so many parts, why change those parts up? People would still get the joke; ‘President Schwarzenegger’ feels so obvious.’ Oh, and doing the whole film mostly without Mr. Burns wasn’t the best idea.
Shrug. At least they tried.
Before the release i had 2 theories that it just wouldn’t be that great (reflecting to the quality of the show) or that the show sucked because they put out all their effort on the movie.
Anyway about sucking the focus groups bottom holes that’s what caused Pres. Swartzenegger and other vaired crap -.- why the fuck did Al (Weird Freak) Jean cater for people who aren’t crazy for the show rather than the millions of fans who were eager?? -.- I&S and Poochie springs to mind -.-
Lastly as DHS pointed out The Simpsons were fugitives hiding and then for the carnival scene they were open as anything then afterwards became fugitives hiding out in Alaska…
One question re: them hiding and so on. Was that family that DOES get busted supposed to be the Incognito family?
[Kinda answered own question, this is a great post with screenshots regarding a lot of repeated gags: http://www.zeitgasm.com/?p=45 ]
Speaking of that link there’s a few he missed out too
I like the movie a little less every time I watch it. More and more flaws seem to leap out at me with each repeat viewing. I don’t know why Al Jean insisted on writing the movie for people who’ve never seen The Simpsons before, since after 18 seasons, I think it’s safe to say that nobody had never seen The Simpsons before. And knowing that so many good jokes got focus-grouped to death really makes me cringe, in a “think what could have been” kind of way. It’s a lot like Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, in a way, except the MST3K writers hated having to rewrite after every test screening and the Simpsons writers embraced it.
At least it was extremely well animated. The sequence where 742 Evergreen Terrace gets sucked into the sinkhole always gives me chills. There’s something very intense about seeing the home of one of television’s most iconic families get so elaborately destroyed.
And I have to agree, Albert Brooks as Russ Cargill is easily the best thing about this movie. So many great quotables (“Sir, I think you may have gone mad with power.” “Of course I have! Ever try going mad without power? It’s boring, no one listens to you.”) Apparently, they were considering bringing Hank Scorpio back to be the movie’s villain at one point, but again treating the audience like morons, they worried that people wouldn’t remember who he was.
I do remember being disappointed that they’d assembled a so-called “dream team” of classic Simpsons writers for this movie, yet Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein were not among them. If they’d been on staff instead of, say, Ian Maxtone-Graham and Mike Scully, perhaps they really could have knocked this one out of the park. (And if James L. Brooks hadn’t been hovering over everyone’s shoulders right up to the release date.)
Wow, I never thought of that re: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. I remember watching it a long time ago and HATING IT (I still think it kinda sucks). But the actual show is one of my favorites ever. I am not sure what the point is in turning a large cult [jumbo shrimp?] show into a “big movie” while dumbing everything down in the process; you are 1) going to alienate the fans and 2) going to give the public “at large” a product which doesn’t resemble the show you’re basing it off of. So, it’s a lose-lose. I guess I get the thinking behind it to an extent but I can’t imagine anyone being happy; fans, non-fans, potential new fans, whatever.
While the writers may have hated the movie, MST3k the movie is one of my favorite things ever. At one point I could recite it backwards and forwards, and to this day I still belt out “this is an experiment, and by watching you’ve become a part of that experiement.”
Whereas dumbing down the simpsons is intensely stupid, having slightly less estoteric jokes for the MST3k movie makes sense, since it’s certainly not as big of a cultural phenomenon. The real crime is making them do rewrites and then fucking them over by not advertising it at all so they could put money into their sure to be blockbuster hit, BARBED WIRE.
I remember loving the movie because I had really low expectations due to being beaten down by horrible episodes for the past 4 years. Having seen it more recently, it isn’t as good, but I still like it. If it were the finale of the series, I would have accepted it. I still get sad watching Marge’s video, and happy when they reunite on the motorcycle.
As someone who had not seen the show in years, I was still kind of excited for the movie. I think it’s because, like you, a Simpsons movie is something I had always wanted, since the classic years. According to rumors, some people were saying it was a return to the “classic years,” but I was very skeptical.
When I saw the movie, the first third honestly made me laugh a lot. Not classic Simpsons level, but if they can keep this up, I thought to myself, it will be pretty damn close. As the movie progressed, though, it lost steam, and when the Simpsons went to Alaska I was like, “What? Why do they think we want to see this?” It was just so low on jokes, and it was pretty much abandoning the ensemble cast. Everyone is saying it, but it’s true: most of the cast just had cheap, one-off cameos that felt like half-assed fanservice. Stick ’em in, they say a line, then disappear. SIgh.
The characterization of the family was so off, too. Homer the asshole, Lisa the killjoy adult in a child’s body, Bart acting mopey and sentimental with Flanders, and Marge becoming so passive she has no personality. It was really a shock, although after reading this blog I see that if I had been watching Zombie Simpsons, it wouldn’t have been.
I agree that one thing that helps the movie is how good a job they did with it visually. It may not have the warmth and liveliness of classic Simpsons, but it has some parts that are truly beautiful. Kind of a sterile beauty… still, it’s light years better than the lifelessness of HDTV Simpsons (which I can see is terrible without ever watching an episode). And that first third does have some great jokes. Actually there are great jokes throughout the movie… but they become few and far between.
The movie feels like a theme park ride. I haven’t experienced the actual ride, it’s probably pretty close.
They brought back quite a few of the major writers from the classic seasons for this which helps explain why a lot of it works so well, but they put Al Jean in charge of the writers’ room and his fingerprints are all over this thing. I guess he had plenty of time to work on the movie considering how little effort seems to go into the tv show.
Thought of another moment I liked: Homer telling Bart to stay during the credits. “A lot of people worked hard on this movie, and all they ask is that you memorize their names!” You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve thought of that quote when people leave a movie during the credits after seeing this movie.
When the movie came out I had long since given up on the show, to the point of actively hating it. But my ex at the time wanted to see it, and I begrudgingly took her.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, but at the same time it wasn’t because of the LACK of zombie simpsons shit. The amount of good stuff outweighs the bad, but it’s a fight to the finish. It has lots of laughs, but it almost has to drag them out of you. It’s funny simpsons, but I’d hesitate to call it GOOD simpsons.
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I’ve gotta disagree, as I just watched the movie this past summer while I was watching the entire series and the movie is still far better than nearly anything that has come out since Season 10. And I do think it is close to classic Simpsons quality. Sure, Homer is his jerkass self, but he comes to realize his flaws and wants to do what is right for his friends and family. The jokes are quite hysterical, especially the Itchy & Scratch movie joke, the one with Bart skateboarding naked, and the “I was elected to lead not to read” speech.
I didn’t watch the film when it came out, but I did pick it up on DVD for a couple of Euro some time later. I know a couple of people have said that they wish the film had been written for fans rather than focus grouped to death, but to be honest, I wish I had been able to watch it with fresh eyes, because I really didn’t enjoy the film at all, constantly comparing it to the classic era. I hated Plopper/Spider Pig in the trailers, and hated him in the film itself. Generally I felt it was just an extended ZS episode, and was never able to really get into it. Given the reasonably positive comments here, maybe it’s time to dig it out and try again.
Good points guys and great review of the movie Mike! I guess The Simpsons movie itself was ok, a few good laughs, great animation quality but “Meh” overall.
Having such a rich ensemble cast and hardly using it is a real shame. And dumbing this down for casual fans was also a terrible idea. Classic Simpsons was done their way, and if you didn’t get it that was your fault. This movie was all about making sure Joe Sixpack can pick up on Rainier Wolfcastle being a parody of Schwarzenegger, or that Moe does in fact own a bar and not a beauty salon. This movie should have been made for its real fans, it would have freed the writers up to be a lot funnier and not making sure that Jane Doe understands every little thing. If they don’t know who Hank Scorpio is, guess what? They can go back to season 8 and watch the episode! Grandpa’s fantastic line from Two Bad Neighbors about getting spanked by Grover Cleveland on two nonconsecutive occassions would have been cut from this movie. For shame.
That said, this movie was better than I anticipated, mostly because I thought it would be horrible. There are individual jokes and scenes that work well, and Albert Brooks is always a riot on this show. But yeah, you can’t help but wonder what this would have been like if, say, Who Shot Mr. Burns had been extended to a full-length movie.
Exactly and to the day people are just discovering stuff from episodes they’ve seen many, many times for like 15-20 years so it really speaks for itself :O
To me, the movie is exactly what I wanted, a series finale to the show. :-p I have 9 seasons and then the movie.
The series finale to me is when they did that VH1 inspired episode and at the end of it they mentioned they were from Northern Kentucky.
For me, the last episode should have been the 200th episode where Homer is elected sanitation commissioner and he floods the town so full of trash that everyone has to move.
Either that or the episode where Lisa tries to act like a cool kid to get new friends after no one signs her yearbook.
Nah, that’s too early. That would have ended at Season 7. The show, if it ended in the 90s, needed Season 8. Oakley has confirmed that Season 8 was written to start wrapping up the series, with Scully continuing to wrap it up and end it in Season 9 or 10. While the Simpsons COULD have ended after Season 8, and then be remembered as the most solid 90s television alongside Seinfeld, I believe the Simpsons should have ended at any point in the Scully era.
I personally believe a successful sitcom needs 1-2 mediocre seasons at the end. That way, it confirms to everybody that the show has run its course and that continuing isn’t for the best. If you leave before that, people are going to be pissed it ended while it was so good. When you just START to overstay your welcome, that’s when to bow out. Because it confirms that “more” likely means “worse”.
Re: Focus groups and dumbing things down: I understand Al Jean and co. wanting to deliver the best film they can, but the key isn’t to cater to the whims of test audiences. I mean, test audiences have been known to be wrong. It’s been a while since I listened to the commentary but if they did indeed cut out great jokes because the test audiences didn’t like them, that’s really a shame. They should make cartoons that entertain -themselves-, and if others find it entertaining too, great.
Re: MST3K the Movie: I still like the film, although the criticisms against it are spot-on: The host segments are weaker than the series, its shorter running time means the actual film is shorter than This Island Earth, there aren’t as many esoteric references, no TV’s Frank, no theme song. Still, it has more than enough quotable lines that I can’t hate it despite the executive meddling. I think the film is an excellent “gateway” for those unfamiliar to the series; to that end, I think the film succeeded brilliantly.
You know, it’s pretty interesting how many stories were considered for The Simpsons Movie. Kamp Krusty was originally going to be the movie, but they had enough trouble stretching that to half an hour, let alone a hour and a half. Bonfire of the Manatees was another film idea that was later made into an episode. Other ideas included the Simpsons finding out that they were fictional characters (that was later used in The Simpsons Game), a parody of Fantasia called “Simpstasia”, there were even talks of a live-action Troy McClure film starring Phil Hartman. While the finished movie was enjoyable, I just wonder how these other ideas would play out.
Is that true? “Bonfire of the Manatees,” that piece of fucking garbage, could have been the movie? Oh sweet lord…
The bigger reason why Kamp Krusty wasn’t turned into a movie is that the episode was already fully written and put into production by the time James L. Brooks suggested it be the movie.
It’s not like they started writing the movie and then realized it worked better as an episode. James L. Brooks saw the completed script, and said, “We should make this into the movie,” and Al Jean said, “If you do that, we don’t have a premiere.” The issue they had with running time was a secondary issue.
Had Brooks suggested such a thing in the brainstorming stage, or had they had more time to write an alternative premiere and actually figure out how to extend the script, it probably WOULD have been the movie.
Funny side-note: Groening was against making a movie back then because they would have to also work on the show simultaneously, and they should wait until the show ended in a few years. Oh, if only he knew…
Congrats Mike on being featured as Smooth Charlie’s link of the week on http://deadhomersociety.com 🙂
Great post Mike, pretty much how I feel about the movie. I actually don’t think I’ve ever been as hyped as I was for this. Well, probably, but not in the way I was for this. I spent the previous year carefully preparing the Wikipedia page, reading every single source about the movie and so on. And I wasn’t dissappointed, I really did enjoy the film when I first saw it, but I think this was partly the ‘event’. It was much less enjoyable each time I rewatched, and I don’t plan on doing so again anytime soon.
Some good jokes, far more than average Zombie Simpsons, but a lot of crap, a weak plot and much Jerkass Homer. And as you rightly say, totally focus grouped to banality, to the point where it comes over as a disjointed mess at times. It’s like they were paranoid it would be a financial failure.
Oh and it’s always rankled me that Bill and Josh were not involved. Not to mention Alf. I really like Hans Zimmer’s score, but to shaft Alf (and act like Danny Elfman was the only composer to ever work on the show) was poor form.
Speaking of omissions, why did Mark Kirkland not work on the movie? He’s been a big part of the Simpsons from nearly the beginning, and has directed the most amount of episodes (most of them quite good). Just seems odd that he wouldn’t have been involved in -some- capacity.
I’ve been lingering on this one for a while because I’m not sure what to say about it. Like you, i have a bit of a soft spot for it. It came out around the time i graduated college and going to see it was one of the last things i did with my group of college friends.
There are some really funny parts to it, bit make no mistake: this is a Zombie Simpsons movie, starring Jerkass Homer and Doormat Marge.
That bit about the screen testing speaks volumes about the writers on this.
Wasn’t a fan of Spider-Pig. Not sure why everyone thought it was so goddamn funny.
See what you think of this : https://crazydiscostu.wordpress.com/2018/01/05/worst-live-action-simpsons-cast-ever-1994-edition/
I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with most of what is being said here. Yes, the movie isn’t perfect and it does have a few jerkass Homer moments, but those are far and few between. The vast majority feels like a Season 4 episode mixed with a Season 8 episode.
The dialog is hilarious with so many great lines like, “I was elected to lead, not to read,” the Spider-Pig song, the whole picking a choice conversation, and so forth. Then there is the stuff with Bart riding on his skate board naked that is freaking hysterical, especially when they actually show his weiner and hide everything else. Not to mention the scene where Apu, Wiggum, and Quimby go to Mr Burns to get him to give them their power back.
Homer hitting himself in the eye with the hammer is funny as hell. As is Maggie going through the dome by the sinkhole.
Then there are the emotional moments, especially after they get to Alaska when Marge leaves him.
Now I do agree that the make out scene makes no sense since the cabin gets buried in an avalanche but suddenly there is no snow around for the animals to get into the place. However, watching the birds struggle to get Homer’s clothes off is priceless.
The best scene is hands down Homer’s epiphany scene. It reminds me a lot of Homer’s vision quest after eating the hot chili.
There is so much to love here that I can’t stand to see people compare it to Zombie Simpsons just because it was made after Season 9. It also sounds like some intentionally make sure they are unable to enjoy it just because it isn’t classic Simpsons, which is bullshit. It should be looked at as its own thing regardless.
” It also sounds like some intentionally make sure they are unable to enjoy it just because it isn’t classic Simpsons, which is bullshit. It should be looked at as its own thing regardless.”
You always seem a pretty good guy but, sorry.. who do you think you are to judge all of us like that? You think we are not honest enough to be open minded..?! YOU?!? Do you even know what have you written?
Reading your comment it seems you are the only one here which is close-minded; the typical close-minded that loved so much the idea and the electrifying feeling around the Simpsons Movie(you know, like all of us did) that subconsciously don’t want to admit what is so blatantly clear to anyone with an honest open mind: this is a Zombie Simpsons movie, from any point of view. It is a good Zombie Simpsons movie, but nothing even near to the good Season 10, 11 or 12 episodes, let alone Classic years.
You laughed at that retard Spiderpig stuff, you think that pathetic showing Bart penis is hysterical (facepalm), and Homer hit by the hammer is so funny! Yes, pure classic material! Contrived half assed characters cameos, Jerkass brain-dead annoying Homer, boring useless Lisa, whining pussyfied Bart: all gold Classic stuff, a real Season 4 and a Season 8 episodes all in one movie. Sure.
You should not judge an episode or a movie based on the time it came out. I thought The Simpsons Movie was okay, and so were a few Season 19 and 20 episodes. It’s insulting to say something is only good for Zombie Simpsons. Sometimes characters change slightly. I can see why you would hold the movie or new episodes to the same standard as the earlier seasons, but to keep picking apart any time Bart cares about having a good father or Mr. Burns wants to do something good just sucks the joy out of the room and ruins the episode for everyone if you are not willing to let The Simpsons work in any new way that doesn’t defile the characters.
Also, don’t keep complaining about the series’ HD look just because it isn’t the movie. Good writing can save bad animation, but good animation can’t save bad writing.
I’m perfectly fine with people having differing, favorable opinions about the modern era of the show, but to claim that I’m “ruining it for everyone” by expressing what I personally think of something feels rather insulting. You make it sound like I’m forcing my thoughts and preferences onto others. Despite what some may think, I don’t go into each new episode looking for ways to shit on it. But clearly, certain storylines and characterization that work for you do not work for me.
That is why you need to have a more positive outlook on the more watchable, less terrible new episodes. What works for you?
Oops, sorry about that. I guess you were not ruining it for everyone. So…what storylines and characterizations actually work for you?
It is good to know you do not go into each new episode just to dump on it, but I still have to wonder if you are someone who like how a clock works better the old way when someone tries to make it work a new way because it doesn’t work the old way anymore.
Your clock analogy makes less sense than you seem to think it does…
My clock analogy means that something can work in more than one way, and sometimes you can reinvent something old to be good in a new way. And The Simpsons has shown me time and time again after Mike Scully and Al Jean became the show runners, after The Simpsons started to get bad with Miracle on Evergreen Terrace, that some episodes can work in a new way that is different from the old episodes and they are not all bad, even with characters acting a little differently from how they originally were, when we get to see a more human side to Mr. Burns and Nelson Muntz.
“My clock analogy means that something can work in more than one way, and sometimes you can reinvent something old to be good in a new way”
Yeah, but what does that have to do with clocks?
It doesn’t have anything to do with clocks. You can generalize that to be about anything that can work in a new way from the old way.
I take back some of what I said. After reading the rest of this blog post, I can see that even though many parts of the story were not great, there were still plenty of jokes that “worked for you” like Bart changing that Wanted poster to show a different family.
As in, there were plenty of jokes that make you glad that this movie happened because it was better than most of The Simpsons in Seasons 9 through 18. If you think it feels so un-Bart to want a better, more caring father than Homer, what do you think Bart would want instead? Yeah, I can see your problem now with Bart “being used” for plots that would not be believable with his character, and I can agree that he is not the kind of kid who would care about having a decent father figure. However, I can still buy into him getting bored with school and feel monotony from doing the same things every day in A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again, because he’s always been a boy looking for fun, mischevious things to do and feels stuck in a rut from not getting to do any of those things.
The last time I saw this movie was in 2018. I’m definitely a fan of it. I thought the first half was stronger than the second half. It seemed like once the Simpsons got to Alaska, they didn’t know what to do with the movie and they were just killing time until the scene where Homer decided not to go back to Springfield. I think this movie is a 3.5/5. It’s definitely not at the same level of quality as the classic era, but there are moments that remind me of that era, and it was a lot better than the episodes they were putting out at the time. It could even serve as a nice series finale.
My issues with the movie are the same as everyone else: The supporting characters don’t have a lot to do, Bart suddenly wanting a father figure was weird, and it doesn’t seem like the plot was the most interesting one they thought of. I found it weird that they wouldn’t ask Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein to take part in the writing. It definitely seems like something they would have said yes to without having to think about it. Mike, it’s interesting that you didn’t like Homer in this movie, because he was toned down from the original version. The test audience thought Homer was too mean, so the script was rewritten again. I think they rewrote this movie about 100 times?
I also found this interesting because I listened to Mike Reiss’ interview on the Talking Simpsons podcast, and he said that the people behind the movie weren’t expecting it to be that successful. They didn’t think that many people would care about seeing The Simpsons in theaters. I don’t know if he was just being humble or he actually believed that, but it says a lot about the mentality behind this film. These guys weren’t young comedy writers trying to make people laugh on a network that wasn’t fully established yet. They were now industry veterans worried about all the expectations put on them to make this movie work. That’s probably why they had so many test audiences and didn’t do fan service like have Hank Scorpio be the villain or have Lisa fall for Milhouse. I guess they wanted to appeal to as many people as possible because of what was on the line. They didn’t think they would get by on it just being called The Simpsons Movie.
Maybe if the sequel ever gets made, they won’t have as much pressure put on them, but who knows?
It’s weird that we see Bart’s genitals in this movie.
The use of focus groups to make this movie is pretty ironic, something that would have been mocked by the classic era writing staff. Did they not learn a thing from Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie?