The Simpsons Movie: Not bad

Yes I’m still playing with the art style.

I’m not one of those folk who hates modern Simpsons, but I’m not one to call it ‘consistent’. I think they’re still funny, certainly, but not as ‘breakthrough’ as before. As Doctor Who reinvents itself with new faces, House throws in a chance of settings and Futurama just always appears ‘fresh’ thanks to the environment itself… The Simpsons is a relic. It was born in the heart of popular culture to which all descending art forms now owe themselves to.  Imagine my surprise then when I saw The Simpsons Movie and thought it not ‘funny’ like its modern TV brother but absolutely ‘hilarious’ like its golden days.

Whether or not nostalgia goggles have something to do with my perception of quality is up for debate, but it’s kind of not an excuse when your show is decades old. Viewing the film a lot older myself allows me to feel, for the first time, that this is about as modern as The Simpsons can get. The social media, political and other modern commentary bits of the modern show just don’t fit together nicely for me; whereas the olden day commentary in the olden show I now ‘get’ thanks to me being a bit older and (just a bit) smarter. It’s weird how my mind works.

The Simpsons Movie turned out to be a welcomed surprise then, a genuinely hilarious film. It’s not perfect by any means; the environmentalism and staunch liberal political attitudes underlying the piece sort of suppress some of the humorous notes. It’s an otherwise oddly sentimental affair with visual gags and other symbols cropping up to point back throughout the show’s history. The now infamous Spider-Pig seems to be a set-piece all in himself… or herself… I’m not sure which gender the bacon is. What I feel, however, is at the core of the movie and (where it fails) is Homer Simpson.

I’m one of those few people in the world to despise Bart as a character. I do not find him endearing and I don’t even chirp if something emotionally engaging happens with his character. The other characters, however, I more than emotionally connect with – I will admit crying to ‘You Are Lisa Simpson’ – and the show’s secondary characters all seem to be filled with such exciting backstories and histories. What I find more compelling, however, is the exploration of the show’s central characters. Grandpa and Homer being the key examples. It goes back in time to a bygone age of hippies and freedom for Homer and into the ‘Great Generation’ for Grandpa.

The film brushes over these histories and instead focuses on a secure narrative that deals with various levels of ‘the plot’. Springfield’s environmentalism puts them under a dome (stolen from Stephen King no doubt), Lisa falls in love, Bart finds a truer father figure in Flanders and Marge breaks off from Homer. All of their ‘break ups’ in the past seem really… minuscule compared to what happens here. The journey afterwards is really a visual treat too, really reminding me of the episode where Homer takes part in the ‘chilli-off’ and realizes Marge is his true ‘soul-mate’… or something. There was a fox and stuff.

Still, the overriding drive of the film is Homer’s idiocy. It’s pretty much ripped from head-to-toe from the television version, and it works I guess. There’s some space that could’ve been used for some interesting movement of characters that could be a lot more worthwhile than ‘homer is dum lol’ (politically: how Lisa’s liberal prissiness could evolve into hatred of her father which sparks his self-resentment which, in turn, leads to Homer rescuing the town and thus himself). It works, nonetheless, but it feels at times the entire film hinges on the show rather than makes a name for itself.

Then again, this is a film which utterly surpasses its modern day brethren. The show, as of the last five years or so, is scooping the bottom of the golden barrel. I still chuckle, but I have yet to laugh. Know what I mean? I will always love The Simpsons for that nostalgia-goggle donning feeling I get when I indulge in younger episodes. I will always love it for dipping back into history and seeing political and culture figures now gone from our present day folklore. If you want a real treat, watch the episode where Michael Jackson guest stars. It’s an utter treat and absolutely heart-wrenching now.

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