The Simpsons Movie
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Don't have a cow, man.
Okily-dokily, neighbor, now that I've gotten through all the big Simpsons catchphrases, I can get on with the business of reviewing this movie. And maybe you'll actually read it if I promise not to litter it with any more of the growing array of retorts, smart-aleck remarks and quips that over the years have emanated from Springfield, U.S.A., via The Simpsons on Fox.
Homer's always outrageous antics have to take on even bigger, movie-size proportions here, so instead of accidentally falling off a cliff or dozing on the job at the nuclear power plant, he's got to do something that doesn't just imperil himself, his house or his neighborhood. Its got to threaten the whole town—even the whole world.
That something triggers an environmental catastrophe the likes of which the U.S. government has never before seen. So President Schwarzenegger (yep!) sends in the Environmental Protection Agency to do damage control. The EPA, led by the power-crazy Russ Cargill, airlifts in a giant, transparent dome to cut off Springfield from everything that surrounds it. (Maine, Kentucky, Ohio and Nevada are all said to be within eyeshot from a high hill.)
When the trapped townsfolk find out Homer's to blame, they gather to lynch him and his family (wife Marge, children Lisa, Bart and Maggie). And if not for a sinkhole that becomes a secret passageway under the edge of the dome, they'd all be done for. Next stop: Alaska, where the views are poster-perfect and they pay you $1,000 when you arrive so you won't complain about the oil companies ravaging your backyard.
Meanwhile, back in Springfield, time is running out. The EPA has decided the dome isn't enough. And a bomb is lowered down through a hole in the top. The town is to be obliterated. This, of course, sets up a moral conundrum for Homer. Should he go back to try to save the people who tried to kill him?
Safely ensconced in their comfy cabin in Alaska, Homer initially has no problem selfishly dismissing his "moral obligations." But when Marge takes the kids and leaves, he decides to pitch in. Her (more often than not) tough-love threats eventually produce change in his heart, and he becomes consumed with reconciling with his family. If that means having to save Springfield to do it, then so be it, he figures.
Next-door neighbor Ned Flanders shows Bart love and compassion when the boy is struggling with being Homer's son and all that goes with that ("Why you little ...! When I get my hands on you I'm gonna ...!). Parallel lessons emerge: The value of consistent attention from fathers. And, ultimately, the idea that even if your dad isn't perfect, he still shouldn't be tossed aside.
Lisa puts feet to her convictions when she pounds the pavement trying to drum up support for a campaign to stop polluting the town's lake. And neither she nor her mom can stomach the idea of letting their friends and neighbors die without trying to intervene.
Also driving Homer's decision to go back to Springfield is an "epiphany" obtained while he's being cared for by a medicine woman of sorts. She prompts him to "cleanse your spirit through the ancient art of Inuit throat singing." After he slides into a trance and his body is pulled apart by the reaching hands of the trees in his vision, he suddenly realizes, "Other people are just as important as I am! In order to save myself, I have to save Springfield."
When Homer has to go to church for a funeral, he protests, "Why can't I worship the Lord in my own way, like praying like h--- on my deathbed?" And he complains about churchgoers being "too busy talkin' to their phony-baloney God."
In church, Grampa Simpson gets hit with a beam of light (from heaven), has a vision and falls, writhing, to the floor. He "prophesies" that the town will face a great calamity. Told to deal with his possessed-looking dad, Homer rifles through a Bible, then discards it saying, "This book doesn't have any answers."
God and His "intelligent design" take one in the (figurative) eye when Flanders identifies the (literal) eyes of a grossly mutated creature as divine handiwork.
Playing a game of dare, Homer tells Bart to ride around town on his skateboard—naked. A series of well-placed objects (trees, shrubs, birds, etc.) obscure his midsection for most of the ride. Then, just for fun, the animators reverse the obstructions, as it were, using a fence to block moviegoers' view of everything except his midsection. The result is a gratuitous view of two squiggly lines, one that resembles a U and another that forms a W. The image is about as detailed as Homer's zig-zagging hair. But that's not really the point, is it?
Seeing Bart in the buff, Flanders mixes up his words and, before eating, asks his kids to "thank the Lord for this bountiful penis." A wide-eyed boy who's watching blurts, "I like men now." When Ralph is strung up on a flagpole, we see his bare backside. Bartender Moe ends up in his underwear after patrons strip him and his establishment.
A love triangle forms between Lisa, her friend Milhouse and a new kid in town. When she's stumping on behalf of saving the polluted lake, Milhouse invites her to "canvas" him.
Two male policemen completely ignore the fugitive Simpsons as they quickly hug, kiss and dart into a building for what's implied to be a tryst.
Cinderella-style, a group of wild animals rip Homer's and Marge's clothes off as they hug and kiss. We see Marge's nightie and Homer's bare belly, then the transfixed stares of the creatures as the couple's interlude begins.
Homer calls the shaman the "boob lady" because her chest is so large. He grabs his own (clothed) crotch with a hand covered with superglue. A mildly crude reference is made about what exactly constitutes "playing with yourself."
The Simpsons' brand of violence isn't much different than what is dealt out (and absorbed) by such old-time cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote. By that I mean people and animals are constantly getting hurt in ways that would maim or kill them in real life, then jumping up and acting as though nothing happened.
Homer sinks a hammer into his eye socket, for instance, and pounds a nail into his thigh. He's smacked back and forth between a huge rock and a building (called "A Hard Place") while clinging to a wrecking ball. He falls through a roof. He gets peppered with BBs. He crashes a motorcycle. He's almost hanged during the lynching. He's buried in an avalanche. And he's almost eaten by a polar bear.
Bart, meanwhile, gets decked by his sister, dangles from a rooftop as Homer tries to push him off and gets his skateboard shot out from under him. Father and son both plunge down the side of a mountain. The whole family is held at gunpoint and is knocked unconscious with gas.
Some characters, however, do end up dead. During a concert on a floating stage, members of the band Green Day drown. A dead guy is dragged down to the lake. A soon-to-be dead guy gets caught under the edge of the dome as it's lowered. Similarly, a huge shard of glass impales a man. A robot shoots itself in the head. Machine gun bullets ricochet and hit soldiers. The town bully punches Milhouse. Then, before the action ends, the bully and his buddies are beaten with a club by another kid they love to pick on.
Seeing the mutated creature that's come out of the lake, Bart pokes out several of its eyes. He, Homer and Maggie all play violent video games. Bart and Maggie play a game about picking off babies. Homer plays Grand Theft Walrus, in which a thugged-up walrus blows away a penguin. Homer mercilessly whips a team of sled dogs.
Crude or Profane Language
God's name is misused a half-dozen times. In a pivotal scene, Marge yells "g--d--n." The words "boob," "wiener" and "doodle" are used as slang for body parts. Homer gives townsfolk the middle finger with both hands. A handful of interjections of "crap," "h---" and "a--" round out the crudities.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Bart guzzles whiskey and gets very drunk. The town drunk, Barney, is also seen tanked. When the town gets spooked, a crowd of people from the church are seen hurrying to the bar. (Those in the bar head for the church.) Similarly, AA attendees run to get booze when their coffee pot breaks. The Duff Beer blimp bears the slogan, "Binge Responsibly."
Otto, the school bus driver, sucks on a marijuana bong. Krusty the Clown smokes cigarettes and cigars. The Sea Captain is seen with his trusty pipe. A few other, miscellaneous characters light up too, some of them teens.
Other Negative Elements
Bart disrespects his dad. Homer disrespects his son. And on it goes. The government takes it on the nose; its leaders are either stupid or senselessly egomaniacal. It's said that Springfield's token village idiot is a product of "four generations of inbreeding."
Homer uses a bug zapper to electrocute fish. He puts a hornets' nest in Flanders' mailbox. And he dumps excrement (pig and human) into the lake. Police Chief Wiggum eats donuts off the barrel of his pistol—which goes off inches from his face.
The Simpsons has been on TV for 18 seasons now, airing 400 episodes. The series has won 23 Emmy awards along the way and generated a reported $1 billion in revenue. Perhaps more telling than those statistics, though, are these: A study by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum done in January 2006 showed that 22% of Americans could name all five Simpson characters. But just one in 1,000 could name all five First Amendment freedoms.
On an informal poll taken a few months later on this Web site, 36% of Plugged In Online readers claimed to be able to name Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie.
So what is it, exactly, that I can tell you about this movie that you don't already know?
The only question on fans' minds is, Will it be like it is on TV? And the only question on the minds of critics is, Will it be like it is on TV? Yes. And yes. Very little separates what happens on the big screen from what happens on the small screen week after week on Sunday nights. And the guys who made the movie (many of whom also work on the TV show) are well aware of that fact. The very first words out of Homer's mouth poke fun at moviegoers for plunking down hard cold cash to watch something they can see for free on TV.
Just because they're 20, 30 or even 60 feet tall on giant screens surrounded by stadium seating doesn't mean Itchy and Scratchy don't still hit, slash, blow up and dismember each other. Bart's still a troublemaker. Lisa still digs music and whatever cause is du jour. Homer still loves his TV and hates his church. And Marge still drags him away from the one and into the other.
Three things, however, do stand out that wouldn't have made the cut for broadcast television two decades ago when The Simpsons premiered: 1) Bart's full-frontal skateboard scene. 2) Bart getting sozzled on minibar-size bottles of whiskey. And 3) Marge bellowing "g--d--n" to punctuate the climactic moment.
Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "There's something about the Simpsons that's radical and simple at the same time, subversive and good-hearted, offensive without really meaning to be." He concludes the thought by adding, "It's a nice balancing act."
I think it could have been better.
A postscript: Thanks to Homer, D'oh is now an official part of the English language. It's in the Oxford English Dictionary. Who says entertainment doesn't affect you?
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Itchy, Barney, Grampa, Krusty the Clown, Mayor Quimby and Sideshow Mel; Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Maggie Simpson, Ralph and Nelson; Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson; Harry Shearer as Scratchy, Mr. Burns, Rev. Lovejoy, Ned Flanders, Lenny, Kent Brockman, Principal Skinner, Smithers, Otto and President Schwarzenegger; Hank Azaria as Prof. Frink, Comic Book Guy, Moe, Chief Wiggum and Apu; Pamela Hayden as Milhouse; Albert Brooks as Russ Cargill; Tom Hanks as Himself
20th Century Fox