Over the past 17 odd years, The Simpsons have been a staple of Sunday night television. Banned from my household when I was very little because of the attitude the children have towards the parents, it eventually saturated television enough that my parents moved on to more pressing concerns and I was able to catch a good chunk of Simpsons episodes for a good number of years.
Yet, as the years went on, the show seemed to become somewhat stale, so over the last 8 years or so the number of new episodes I have seen have been few and far between. Of course, I could not pass up an opportunity to see how The Simpsons would fare on the big screen and the answer to that question would be rather well, if not particularly spectacular.
What "The Simpsons Movie" does well is necessarily expand the scope to a degree that one would expect for a film. Instead of cramming all sorts of ancillary characters into the movie in an attempt to please the legions of fans of the show, they instead focus primarily on the Simpsons family themselves and the story is ultimately Homer's.
Through an unfortunate series of events that highlight the irresponsibility of Homer Simpson, the town of Springfield becomes the most polluted city in the country. President Arnold Schwarzenegger is told by the Director of the EPA that a drastic plan needs to be put into effect. Through this, a giant dome is placed over the city of Springfield, separating it from the rest of the world. Once the facts are revealed that Homer is the one responsible for this travesty, the town is looking for vengeance. Now, the Simpsons need to find a way to save Springfield and keep their family together.
As stated before, the movie is good, but not great. And most of this is a result of the writing. A huge trap the writers could have fallen into was taking a 20-minute story and stretching it to 90-minutes in length. Fortunately, this was not the case. Every event follows logically from point to point and never lingers incessantly to pad the length. The narrative is largely coherent and rather focused. Despite the irreverence of much of the plot, Homer does go through a personal journey in which he attempts to grow as a human being. Whether or not this has happened before in the show, I am unaware, but it was certainly welcome to see here since this is a feature-length film.
Yet, there is nothing that really separates this from most of the run-of-the-mill comedies out there. Yes, these are the Simpsons and it would probably be one of the better episodes of the series, especially of the last few years, but there was nothing truly great about it. Most of the jokes only gave me about a half-smile until the end, where a few actual laughs shone through. And there were a few pretty funny jokes comparing the movie screening to watching the show on TV, but with those few exceptions, it just was not that funny. The alternative would be that the jokes were unfunny, like in Evan Almighty, so mildly funny jokes are much preferred.
Surprisingly, many of the most popular characters of the show are only shown in the background given little or nothing to say at all. Characters like Barney and Principal Skinner are barely in the movie and the two of them probably have a total of five or six lines, maybe less. This was necessary in keeping the story focused and it makes sense for why decisions like this were made.
"The Simpsons Movie" is a must see for anyone who is a fan of the Simpsons. They do a lot of things relatively well and they do not really do many things that are particularly negative. After nearly two decades waiting, expectations are obviously very high. Whether or not it met those expectations is up to individual viewers to decide, but as it stands alone the movie is slightly above average. If you do not like The Simpsons, nothing in this movie will probably change your mind even though it is a fairly well-told story. The Simpsons Movie is a nice, welcome diversion as the summer heads to a close for Simpsons and non-Simpsons fans alike.