I haven’t watched a new episode of The Simpsons in more than 10 years. The last time I regularly watched the show was around 1997 and 1998, when it started to show signs of wear. So The Simpsons Movie was essentially the first episode of The Simpsons I’ve seen in long, long time.
Other people have told me the movie reminded them of how the show was right around the time I stopped watching, which confirmed my perception that the movie seemed in keeping with what I remembered.
The Simpsons has always managed to be heart-warming in the face of ridiculousness. For the movie, that heart-tugging was magnified. Heck, I even managed to say "Awwww" toward the end.
In typical Simpsons fashion, a series of innocuous events snowball into an impossible situation. A neglectful Homer and his attachment to a pet pig results in an environmental disaster which forces the US government — wire-tapped into suburban America to a ludicrous hilt — to employ extreme force against the entire city of Springfield. In short, the government drops a giant glass bubble on the town.
So it’s up to a reluctant Homer to set things right. Along the way, he loses the faith of both Marge and Bart, but of course, he re-establishes his connection to his son with a motorcycle and to his wife by saving the day.
The Simpsons is renowned for making quick satire out of the US zeitgeist, while balancing the dysfunctional but loving dynamic of the Simpsons family. For an 87-minute movie, those quick satirical punches stepped aside for the family drama, some of it a bit predictable. Marge recording her goodbye over her wedding tape? How bittersweet. For Bart, the pull of the Flanders’ stable home seemed a bit at odds with the character well established in the show.
But when everything comes to its inevitable denouement, it’s still incredibly tough not to be swept in the moment. Homer somehow manages to save the day, but on the big screen, that moment is played up as big as a Hollywood production can muster.
Anyone looking for the edginess of The Simpsons ca. the mid-’90s might be disappointed. The movie watered down the sharp comic gags emblematic of the show.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t watch a sequel, if one were made.
It was nice revisiting characters I haven’t really watched in a decade, but the movie didn’t really convince me to give The Simpsons a Season Pass on my TiVo.