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Springfield Is Inside All of Us: The Simpsons Movie
Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Tom Hanks

By Breanne Boland August 8, 2007 Issue

It’s pretty well known that the golden age of The Simpsons passed several years ago. The quotes people throw out, the terms and ideas that have made it into public language, they all come from the earlier years of the show. I wondered why they decided to make a movie now, when the current state of the show suggests that the script would be blown away by even the most frequently viewed rerun.

It turns out that it’s because they actually got it together and made a movie worth watching. Episodes of the show in recent times have been exercises in randomness, with beginnings and endings scarcely connected and lines that sound clever, have the basic elements of clever, but which don’t quite work. The film isn’t innocent of this kind of comedic transgression, but overall, it’s as good as some of the best episodes.

Despite mercilessly making fun of the audience for plunking down $10 for what’s normally free, the film version really does expand for its new medium, with bigger, more complicated animated sequences and the occasional bit of well-placed ribald humor. It’s still appropriate for the same audience the show has, but it earns its PG-13, generally in hilarious ways.

In its freewheeling 87 minutes, the film covers environmentalism, politics, father-son love, and marital dysfunction. Lake Springfield is so polluted it’s beginning to dissolve things, like barges and rock bands, so the town bands together to clean it up. They’re successful until Homer dumps his pet pig’s poo silo into the water. The resulting toxic muck is so dangerous the government puts an impenetrable plastic bubble over Springfield. When the reason for their isolation is traced to Homer, Springfield’s residents chase the Simpsons out. Taking refuge in the beautiful foreign country of Alaska, they begin to create a new life. However, once they learn of a plan to wipe Springfield off the map for good, they return to try to save the people who chased them out with torches.

When a TV show makes such a big transition in medium, especially a show as well established as this one, it could go wrong in a number of ways. Familiar patterns and characterizations can seem off-key, or the extended length can make what’s normally funny and brisk seem tortured and stretched. Instead, this film feels fresh and makes even the existing episodes seem better — you walk out thinking, “And I can watch that every day!” The script walks a fine line between story and irreverence, calling attention to the fact it’s a movie without being excessively precious or self-referential. Perhaps it’s shouldn’t be surprising, as this movie has been in the works for more than a decade, but it’s still remarkable how effortless it all feels. Like its TV counterpart, it’s funnier than most of what’s around it. Let’s hope that Maggie’s announcement over the end credits comes to pass.

Bottom line: Best. Episode. Ever.

Coming Attractions
Aug. 10
Stardust - A fantastical story based on Neil Gaiman’s novel. A boy sets off into the magical wilderness to find a fallen star to win the heart of the girl he loves. Little does he know that the star is actually a woman with a distinctly different agenda.

Rush Hour 3 - “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” More fun with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

Aug. 17
Superbad - Two geeky high school boys resolve to have the best night ever before they graduate. From the makers of Knocked Up, here unrestrained by sensitive subject matter, so expect it to be even grosser and even more awesome.

The Invasion - A preview of a Nicole Kidman-Daniel Craig pairing before The Golden Compass comes out this winter. This loose reinterpretation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers has Kidman discovering that her son may be what’s needed to stop the alien invasion.

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