Well, here it is. After 17 years and more than 400 episodes of Homer’s D’oh’s! Marge’s grunts and Bart’s invitations to “Eat His Shorts,” creator Matt Groening has finally brought the Simpsons to the big screen.
That collective snap heard ever since the July 27 release date was the sound of 2 million fans crossing their fingers, hoping that the film would not disappoint.
First the good news. The Simpsons as a film translates rather well to the big screen. The movie focuses on the Simpson’s hometown of Springfield and a massive environmental hazard caused by one too many skull-and-cross-bone embossed barrels deposited in the town’s lake.
The Environmental Protection Agency chair, Russ Cargill, (voiced by Albert Brooks) issues a dire warning: deposit one more toxic item into the lake and the town may become unlivable. Enter Homer, who meanwhile is collecting the droppings of his new pet pig in a silo. He decides he must ditch the silo in the lake when he is in a rush to get to a free doughnut give-away.
The consequences of these actions lead to, among other things, the town being enclosed in a geodesic dome, and the Simpson’s having to flee an angry mob once it’s discovered what Homer has done.
The film develops these events while retaining much of the elements fans enjoy about the series. Among them, Homer’s Pavlovian response to doughnuts, next door neighbor Ned Flanders’s willingness to work with him even at his own detriment, and the ever prescient pop culture references.
One of the film’s best comic set pieces is a Green Day concert that comes to an abrupt end courtesy of Springfield’s pollution – it’s an inspired homage to the series.
Another funny scene involves President -yes President- Arnold Schwarzenegger. When presented with five different written options to deal with the pollution issue, President Schwarzenegger delivers the movie’s best line: “Look, I get paid to lead, not to read.”
But now, the bad news with the film.
There are many more scenes that don’t work, probably because of the film’s length.
Unlike in a usual half-hour show, many scenes in the film go on too long and seem more like filler.
In one scene, Bart rides his skateboard in the buff through Springfield. Objects conveniently fall into place directly blocking his private parts. We do finally get the “money shot,” but then the scene continues, leading to Bart’s capture by the police in a development that spells as desperation. The writers just seemed backed in a corner.
Another scene that looses steam involves a pre-sex prelude between Homer and Marge. The scene opens brilliantly with a hilarious send-up of Bambi, but then just goes flat. When more and more birds come through their bedroom window, the scene has lost all focus and we wanted it to be over.
In the end, the film does work. It has many funny moments, albeit mostly at the beginning. And it does take chances with the artistic freedom granted by its PG-13 rating. However, it’s far from a “Homer.”
Too many scenes fizzle, too many jokes result in a smile but not a laugh, and too many characters are underutilized – there is a cameo by Tom Hanks that does not inspire a single funny moment.
To paraphrase young Ralph’s line in the “Kamp Krusty” episode: “[It’s] funny, but not ha-ha funny.”