I only watched them sporadically, but it seems to me that two animated TV shows — South Park and The Simpsons — have been responsible for maintaining a certain level of subversive comedy during the darkest days of pop culture in the past two decades. Of the two, South Park made the move to the big screen with its edge not only intact, but sharpened. Not so The Simpsons Movie, directed by Simpsons’ veteran David Silverman.
VIDEO: Watch the trailer for The Simpsons Movie
Maybe 18 seasons is too long to remain topical and funny, especially in prime time on Fox TV. Maybe 87 minutes is too much time for a program that has grown so comfortable with the half-hour format. Maybe the wide screen makes the clumsy animation that looks so hip and funky on the tube seem merely clumsy. And certainly 11 credited writers suggests a lack of focus, purpose, or point. At any rate, the only time I laughed out loud was when — spoiler alert! — Homer nailed a shingle to his thigh.
But, that’s just me. Another critic at the screening laughed at a reference to a gag that he remembered seeing in season five — or was it eight? So it could be I’m missing a lot of the inside humor and subtext. But I think the movie, too, is missing a lot of subtext.
As with any good satire, The Simpsons thrives on the absurdities of the world, and certainly there have been no shortage of those lately. The movie touches on a few such cultural and political hot points — President Schwarzenegger saying, “I was elected to lead not to read.” That’s funny, kind of, especially with the accent. But for the most part, it seems as if the Springfield in the movie has been cut off from the real world . . .
And that is, in fact, what happens, as Homer’s irresponsible dumping of a silo-full of pig shit (or poop, since this is PG-13) into a lake turns Springfield into the most polluted place in the world. (Echoes of Pink Flamingos?) This, in turn, gives the power-mad director of the EPA an opportunity to be, well, power-mad, sealing off the town with a giant dome (manufactured by his own company! Take that, Halliburton! I think . . .) and compelling Homer and his family to try to save the day. The plot synopsis (don’t even get me started on Grandpa’s prophetic vision) actually sounds kind of amusing, so why is it so tedious and contrived when it plays out on screen?
Maybe it’s the lack of satiric commitment: why pick on the EPA when it’s probably the only department in the current administration that hasn’t contributed to the downfall of the country? And what’s the deal with Flanders? Is he supposed to be a pedophile, a prig, or the voice of common sense and humanity? The movie comes closest to making a statement when Homer looks amorously into his pet pig’s eyes and . . . So maybe I laughed twice. But, otherwise, this was a big pile of pig poop.