The Simpsons Movie. Voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, and Harry Shearer star in a film written by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and others, and directed by David Silverman.
Somewhere around the half-hour mark in the frequently uproarious The Simpsons Movie, you may find yourself squirming. After having watched America’s favorite TV family-the anti-Cleavers-for going on 20 years, we have been programmed by the medium to expect certain formalities and cultural guideposts, i.e., commercial breaks and narratives neatly packed into half-hour time frames. As such, the significant transition may be less about the size of the screen as the scope of time. Somewhere around the movie’s hour mark, though, the earlier restlessness subsides, replaced by a warm, fuzzy, and joy buzzer-like sensation of realization that the Simpsons brand humor, in its irreverence and ultimately feel-good paydirt, plays as well in feature film format as in the living room.
One basic appeal of the Simpsons franchise has to do with the almost accidental nature of its creation. Cartoonist Matt Groening knew how to blend post-Modernist whoopie cushions and a soothing worldview while poking fun at the animation temples of Disney and Loony Tunes. That mix prevails in the movie’s wild yet intricate premise, concerning religious premonitions, ecological nightmares, governmental skullduggery, and nude skateboarding on a dare.
Everything we know about the Simpsons is writ large on the big screen, and with a bit more salty and naughty humor. Homer is still a galumphing, insensitive brute whose love of beer, doughnuts, and terminal adolescence gets him into trouble on an epic scale here-something to do with toxic waste, vigilante justice, and a self-imposed relocation program. Marge, in all her high-coifed glory, is still the voice of reason and salvation in the family unit, and Bart is a scamp with a heart of gold.
Not everything works here. Hans Zimmer’s too-cute working of Danny Elfman’s original, quirky theme seems sugar-coated, and the laugh pacing swerves from pee-your-pants density to minor eye-rolling at times. But when Groening and Co. send up Disney’s aw-shucks pantheism in a scene where animals help set the stage for a love scene between Homer and Marge, it’s clear that the Simpsons charm is fully intact and priming the way for sequel talk. Consumer alert: For maximum comedy content, be sure to stick around to the very end of the credits.