Best. Movie. Ever.

The Simpsons Movie

on July 27, 2007 by Chad Greene
Back in The Simpsons episode “Bart the Daredevil,” Homer tackled Bart to prevent him from jumping Springfield Gorge on his skateboard and then declared that he was going to attempt the same stunt himself to show his son what it's like to see someone you love risking everything for no apparent reason. Hurtling over the abyss, an adrenalized Homer was momentarily convinced he was going to make it. Then he plummeted to the bottom, hitting every jagged outcropping possible on the way down.

For the fans who watched “Bart the Daredevil” when it originally aired—17 years ago—the thought of Matt Groening and an all-star team of 10 Simpsons scribes past and present sitting down to write a feature film after long ago achieving television immortality with a record-breaking 400-episode run is akin to that. After growing to love these characters over the course of 18 years—during which Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program no fewer than nine times—pushing them onto the silver screen seemed like it might be as much of a sucker bet as piling all five family members onto that rickety skateboard and giving them a shove toward the rim of the gorge.

And don't think for a moment that it wasn't a stunt even the masterful satirists behind The Simpsons found daunting. They open with a screening of an Itchy & Scratchy movie-within-a-movie at Springfield's Aztec Theatre during which Homer shouts out, “I can't believe we're paying for something we could get for free on TV. If you ask me, everyone in this theatre is a big sucker.”

On a skateboard, maybe it would have been a sucker bet. But instead, the creators of The Simpsons Movie give Bart and Homer—in one of the most satisfying scenes here—a suped up motorcycle and a hell of a head start. And I'll be damned if they don't jump Springfield Gorge—literally and metaphorically.

A throwback to the irrepressible irreverence of the series' salad days in the mid-'90s, The Simpsons Movie begins—as many of the best episodes have—rather obliquely. Although an extended version of the classic opening sequence (which features a “blackboard gag” in which Bart writes “I will not illegally download this movie” during detention) segues into a scene of Green Day performing on a barge rapidly dissolving in the toxic waters of Lake Springfield, director David Silverman (a series regular who also helmed Monsters, Inc. ) takes the time to set up several subplots before plunging into the environmental disaster that threatens the very existence of Springfield.

Outraged by the careless disregard with which residents such as Krusty the Clown (with a tanker labeled “flop sweat”) and Moe the Bartender (with a truck full of empty bottles—and Barney) dump detritus into the lake, Lisa tries to shock the townspeople into better behavior with an Al Gore-inspired presentation titled An Irritating Truth . But she can't stop her own father from torpedoing the cleanup with a makeshift silo of feces from his new pet pig.

When the Environmental Protection Agency, headed by shady industrialist Russ Cargill (Albert Brooks), seals Springfield off from the rest of the United States with an impenetrable plastic dome, the Simpsons must decide whether to escape to start a new life elsewhere or stay to try to save their hometown (where a torch-toting mob is searching for Homer).

Although not every attempt at humor here is successful (particularly lame is the one, teased in the trailers, where Homer is literally caught between a rock and a hard place), The Simpsons Movie is simply packed with satirical sight gags and pithy punch lines. In one scene, the family is forced to flop at a fleabag called the “Red Rash Inn.” In another, Krusty shamelessly shills for a pork sandwich called “The Clogger,” promising that “if you can find a greasier sandwich, you're in Mexico!”

And after the EPA imprisons them, Marge takes the time to crochet a sampler reading “Dome, Sweet Dome”—just one of the spot-on touches that proves that the fictional family that has defined satire on the small screen since 1989 has finally found a “Home, Sweet Home” on the big screen.
Distributor: Fox
Voices: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer and Albert Brooks
Director: David Silverman
Screenwriters: Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Swartzwelder and Jon Vitti
Producers: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully and Richard Sakai
Genre: Animated/Comedy
Rating: PG-13 for irreverent humor throughout
Running time: 86 min.
Release date: July 27, 2007
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