Simpsons Movie


It is the last day of the month they call July; the month that once didn't exist, horned in so rudely like an invading Roman Legion to honor the aquiline of its heroes, Gaius Julius Caesar. Were we not so busy I would tell you more about how "July" came to be, but we move on.

Mostly because you suck, your grandmother dresses you funny and every insecurity you have (even the one about your eyes that you NEVER talk about) is true. How can I say such horrible things? It's easy when you're sociopathic! Luckily for the rest of you, today is also International Insult Day!

One of the best holidays that site has yet created (and little wonder, with such a studmuffin author), today is the one day you can insult anyone and everyone and get away with it! Journey over to find out how you can call your boss a fraud, your wife a frigid fridge and your children severe disappointments! When you are there, make sure you leave the very best insult you can think of. (If you want to insult me personally, do so at the end of the post.)

۵۵۵

Tuesday is also "new video release day," which you may or may not celebrate as a holiday. (That is strictly up to you, but I would point out that if it is a holiday you would be free to imbibe more than usual. I would also like to point out that you are ugly and live wholly without love.)

Anyway, 300 comes out today. A few months ago, I managed to see the film, which prompted me to write what was easily my best movie review in years. (For my money, any movie that can inspire me to write something better than average goes up in marks from me just for that.) If you missed it the first time (or even if you didn't), see Hyperion get slapped around by 300.

۵۵۵

Many of you have already read reviews of THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, and if you haven't seen the film, you are probably not waiting on my "OK" to do so. Thusly, I wanted to write a different kind of review, about the movie but also about the show and the characters, what they have meant to me and what they mean to the world. (Oh, and before I forget, Morons win Nobel Prizes when compared to you.)



Movie-Hype #707 – THE SIMPSONS MOVIE


Rejected Introduction Written before I saw the Movie #1
Movie adaptations from TV shows are a tough sell. It's not that hard to figure out why: people rarely like paying for something they are used to getting for free. There have been a few successes (like THE FUGITIVE, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, several of THE MUPPET MOVIES or MISSION IMPOSSIBLE), but the landscape is littered with failures, such as THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, MIAMI VICE, BEWITCHED, MCHALE'S NAVY, THE AVENGERS, LOST IN SPACE, CHARLIE'S ANGELS, STARSKY AND HUTCH, DRAGNET, THE MOD SQUAD, TWIN PEAKS, THE FLINTSTONES, I SPY, and WILD WILD WEST) just to name a few. When it comes to shows still on the air few will even try. ( X-FILES anyone?) Sponge Bob and the Power Rangers lost much of their allure after hitting the big screen (whether coincidence or not), and you can really only name one success: South Park. However, because South Park was such a smashing success (almost universally praised as superior to the show, even by non-fans, and applauded for its daring and nerve), the pressure was on for The Simpsons. Could they deliver? In a word…..


Rejected Introduction Written before I saw the Movie #2
In terms of the "cultural zeitgeist," The Simpsons "arrived" around the turn of the century. Time Magazine named The Simpsons the best show of the 20th Century. Books on philosophy and Religion popped up, and The Simpsons had arrived from the counter-culture wonder of the early '90s (that initially had then First Lady Barbary Bush calling Bart Simpson a bad kid) to mainstream bastion of cultural values. (In a "who woulda thunkit?" turnaround, Christianity Today named Ned Flanders the #1 Evangelical on Television.) They waited so long, though, that many fear The Simpsons missed their moment. No longer is The Simpsons the water-cooler cartoon, replaced by other families willing to go farther for the laugh, stab harder to make the point. Been there, done that is the feel. Would people respond? In a word….


Rejected Introduction Written before I saw the Movie #3
So many of the reviews I've read seem predetermined. If the person doesn't like The Simpsons show, or thinks it has gone downhill, the odds are they are going to feel that way about the movie. The true fans seem to love it, as do non-fans, because perhaps they didn't know what to expect. For myself, I was worried. I so wanted to like it; The Simpsons have been a part of me since 1989, my favorite show for a dozen years and the one I have watched and loved more than all others. I literally would not have asked out my girlfriend if she answered The Simpsons question wrong. On the other hand, maybe that builds too much pressure. I finally got my answer when I….


I could do this all day. Maybe I'll just get to it.


I liked THE SIMPSONS MOVIE. I liked it a lot. The more I think about it, the more I realize I like it. If I saw it again, I am positive I'd like it even more, with the pressure of whether it'd be good settled, and the central conflict no longer at issue (more on that in a minute), I think I would relax and enjoy the jokes even more than I did the first time, which was considerable. I laughed out loud something like 59 times.

At the same time, it took awhile to get used to, watching my favorite family up on screen. They looked different. The tone was different. The animation was different. The dialogue a bit different. There were other issues as well, issues that I'm probably one of only three people in America to care about, but I did. So, while I ultimately am coming down on the side of "huge fan," I'm not going to tear into people who were troubled. Well, I'm not going to bash people who have legitimate reasons for their anxiety. There were clearly some reviews that were written out ahead of time, and the blanks just filled in. (Bob Longino, I'm looking in your direction.)

The most interesting thing about the reviews is that few—if any—of the writers seem to actually grasp the complexities they were seeing. Or maybe that's just me again taking a cartoon way too seriously.

So here's the deal: THE SIMPSONS MOVIE is much like the TV show, in as far as the characters are there, the voices are the same (except for one exception, and more on that in a moment too), and the adventure is suitably wacky. A casual fan or a non-watcher might declare it "four episodes put together." On the other hand, I found THE SIMPSONS MOVIE to be completely different from the show in all sorts of ways. Ultimately, that difference makes or breaks your feeling of the experience.

To start with, the show is usually 22 minutes, the first fourth (or third) of which almost never has ANYTHING to do with the main story. Fans know this. They joke about it. Some criticize it. Few appreciate that this was perhaps the origins of what I am calling Comedy of the Random, something The Simpsons almost wholly created in the Television form. Random for random's sake takes bravery, to step over the line but not outside the frame; like the inspired episode where famous stories were told, and at the end Homer telling Bart that Hamlet was made into the movie Ghostbusters, and the entire family starts dancing to the Ghostbusters theme for 20 seconds. That's committing to the bit. That's the Comedy of the Random.

But I'm getting far afield.

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE does not have a wasted opening (unless you count the Itchy and Scratchy movie, and that's only a minute, and leads to a stunning self-parody in a movie theatre). The film has a remarkably cohesive narrative. While still tossing off throw-away jokes, in-jokes, topical jokes, slapstick and every other stab at humor possible, the movie stays "on message" all the way through. That's a remarkable achievement, but almost jarring to how I am used to watching The Simpsons.

Secondly, the movie is completely about the family. As it should be. You only get one shot to do it right, and that means focus. However, because of this, other Springfield characters are virtually ignored. Don't get me wrong; the writers go out of their way to get almost every single character in the movie, but most get a line or two, if that. A Simpsons episode will usually feature several of these quirky characters in extended scenes, but with 22 episodes a season, you can spread it out. Here the others get pushed to the side. I appreciated them trying to get everyone in they could, but it was a little weird to see favorite characters in drive-by fashion, as if there was a checklist or something. (The one exception was Ned Flanders, who gets plenty of face-time, and but for a throwaway line at the end that really didn't fit plays the best human being you will ever see on screen. It's really incredible how warm and decent he was, which indirectly led to my anxiety, which I swear I'll get to soon.)

The basic plot involves the environment, loyalty and parenting, and might have been a little pushy, but not in a bad way. The story had many "echoes" of great plots from the show, like relocation, spiritual epiphanies, government agencies run amok, gorge jumping and of course the lesson everyone ought to know by now: you don't mess with Maggie.

There were at least five levels of humor in the dialogue. There was that post-modern "self-aware" irony that The Simpsons virtually invented. There were puns, in-jokes, obscure reference and sophistication. There was not a lot of language, except for one wildly inappropriate epithet from Marge, again at the end and giving the feeling of "there just so we don't waste the opportunity." (Which makes one wonder: did the writers consider using the "F" word? My understanding is that you get one F word—and only one—per PG-13 rating. I'm actually glad they didn't go that way, because for the most part this is a major family film.)

Well, except for the full-frontal underage nudity. That's right. You read me correctly.

And then there was Spider-Pig.

To me, Spider-Pig represents everything about Homer that I love so much. It's wacky. Out of nowhere. Borderline obnoxious and you'd think it would get old, BUT IT DOESN'T! I'm not kidding. There is an operatic version of "Spider-Pig" in the movie's epiphany scene that is so good they put it again in the credits. I have it over on Monkey Barn. You must go listen. It's only a minute long. Please?????) Spider-Pig is…what can I say? You will either love him, love the song, love everything about it, or you're dead inside.

All right: this stuff is good, but let's get to the heart of what I really want to say:

What I think most people miss about The Simpsons is how complex the characterization really is. Because they start each week Tabula Rasa, the writers are free to explore every facet of their characters. It's almost as if each character is really five characters. Or more. You couldn't do this on a regular sitcom. You could show Chandler's sensitive side, but you couldn't show him banging hookers. Even sitcoms have memory. But on The Simpsons, they can. Well, maybe not banging hookers, but we do get to see the characters in many different lights.

Especially Homer. When it comes right down to it, my love of The Simpsons grew to the passion it is now when the show (and I) changed focus from Bart to Homer. Here was an Everyman capable of incredible surprises along with the hilarity. My personal Top 10 list of episodes would probably surprise many, for it features quite a few that aren't considered the funniest. To me, The Simpsons goes from being a top sitcom to transcendent art when they go away from the humor into more serious territory. It's not something anyone but a devotee would really agree with, but there you go.



I bring this up because one of the things about Homer is that from time to time he is a criminally bad father and husband. There are plenty of times when he's just awesome to be around, but there's no denying that more than once Homer should have been locked up. (It's because of that "blank canvas" that I can let it go and not quit watching the show because Homer is a psycho-path, or only appreciate him as an anti-hero, a la Cartman.) It is this aspect of Homer's character that THE SIMPSONS MOVIE explores. Part of me wanted to groan, because on a personal level I wanted to see him shine. However, I admit that's the part that gets the most drama. In fact, there's a scene where Marge leaves a video message for Homer, where it really sinks in just how horrible his behavior can be, and how much it affects others. Marge's voice notably changes, as if her real life counterpart Julie Kavner wanted to signal in some small way, "Hey, this is real." I'm not sure how to describe it, but the emotion involved was more impacting than any manipulation I've seen from a Rom-Com in many a year.

Watching Homer struggle was tough for me. Watching Bart realize how bad his dad was, especially compared to Ned Flanders was difficult. Watching Lisa advocate leaving him forever was…well, Lisa can go to Hell, so that part didn't get to me that much, but watching Marge say those fateful words…that's drama, people. And while I was in agony that my Everyman hero looked so bad, I admit it makes for great theatre. (Luckily, no one else will care, so there's that.)

In the end, I'd like to ask anyone who didn't like THE SIMPSONS movie to give it another shot. Watch with new eyes and see what they are up to. And people who have never watched the show or have given up? Give it a try. The film may not have been as go-for-broke audacious as the South Park Movie. And even I admit that there are many Sunday nights when Family Guy gives me more laughs. But what you must understand is that A) anything South Park and Family Guy (especially Family Guy: literally) does is taken from what The Simpsons did first. And if The Simpsons isn't going balls to the wall every second, they are also operating at a different level than any other American cartoon has ever even dreamed of. Somehow, these cartoon characters have become real. Split-personality real, maybe, but real nonetheless. Most will never see that. They will never see Homer beyond "D'oh!" They will never see any of them beyond the easy description we first landed upon when The Simpsons fell into our world. But friends, there is more than that to see, and THE SIMPSONS MOVIE shows us just how much more. That is why the film will hold up for a long time, and why I hope there are many more to come.


[Oh yeah: all those insults up above? I kid because I love. And because you're too ugly to kiss.]

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could eat Alphabet Soup and crap a better review than this! You're so obviously in love with The Simpsons that you have become blind to their glaring faults. It's past it's prime, no longer funny or shocking, and merely holding on.

They made a lot of money this weekend, but it won't last. People have to realize The Simpsons have become the mediocrity they used to lampoon.

Which I guess is fitting, since it "inspired" you to write such a cloying review.

Victor said...

Wow, I wish the above 'anonymous' person had the balls to actually leave a name. I hope you are a friend of this dear blogger and just giving him a hard time. If not, you sir (or madam) are a pussy. You are a pussy for not sticking a name or at least a place for Hyperion to send you a response on your comment.

Do me a favor, write a review and lets see if it has half as much insight as this one did. Sure, this blogger is a die hard long time fan, but I really think that is why his review is pertinent. How many professional critics are hardcore fans? I doubt that many, but I could be wrong. But I also suspect I am right seeing as so many major print reviews did lean on the negative side.

On to my comments now. Jerk.

I was extremely concerned about how this movie would pan out. And just like you I was extremely happy. They crossed mediums quite well and created one solid narrative. I am pleased that it was not just four episodes loosely strung together (see the straight to DVD movie from Family Guy).

The movie redeemed some of the more recent seasons for me and furthered my love for the empire that is The Simpsons.

Yea, so what? I already loved The Simpsons. How does that mean that I am not entitled to like the movie? Or how does that mean that my review and feelings on the movie are not even important enough to regard? Nevermind, still just peeved at 'anonymous' above me.

My only problem...
Maggie's first word. I may be wrong, but at the end of the credits didn't Marge say that Maggie was about to say her first word to which Maggie said, "sequel?" Now, we all now that Maggie has spoken before. I don't think we should count anytime on the Treehouse of Horror episodes, but she definitely said "Daddy" at the end of Lisa's First Word and also said "Daddily-Doodily" or something to that affect during the episode where the Simpsons' kids are taken in by the Flanders.

Oh god. Sorry, that was me being a picky Simpsons fan-boy.

Anyways, good review. I share your thoughts. Can you just start up another side blog that just deals with The Simpsons?

Lady Jane Scarlett said...

obsess much Hypey?

Jake said...

Good review. I have no inclination to see it in the theater. Your review almost makes me get off my chair ans pay the money to see it.

... nah I will still wait and see it, even though your review was awesome!

Dragon said...

I can't wait to see it on Thursday!

Sparky Duck said...

Hype just reinforced my want to see this movie already. I think its somewhat good that the curtain is pulled back to see homer for the idiot that he is, though he is a hilarious idiot.

Koz said...

So whose voice is different?

Hyperion said...

Anonymous - It's the one day of the year you get away with that, buddy. The one day of the year....

Victor - Dude, great comment. You sound way intelligent, and I'm glad to have you aboard, but I don't know any Victors, do I? (As for The Simpsons-only website, I would seriously consider doing it.)

Lady Jane Scarlett - I sent you my reply via email. I WISH I had enough guts to share it here, but for the general populace: watch yourself.

Jake - Get off your butt and see it!

Dragon - Make sure you take Movie Cereal!

Sparky Duck - It's not that they play him as an idiot, but as a narcissist. Luckily he redeems himself....(I hope that wasn't a spoiler)

Koz - Sorry if I didn't make that more clear. What I meant was when Julie Kavner changed her voice as Marge in the videotape. When you see the movie you'll know what I'm talking about.

Victor said...

I am an old friend of your sister from Atlanta. I used to get your e-mail after your sister pointed it out to me. I went on to read the blog when it started, but after switching computers I lost my links, etc. I just recently started getting the e-mail alert thinger (or is it thingy) for the blog. So, I am back and reading and was just in time for Simpsons week.

I would so be down for a Simpsons' blog. I wonder how many are already out there.