“Watch out … he is the Spider-Pig.”
Something that has bothered me about The Simpsons is that it has not been very good for years, but critics never really noticed. I suppose that maybe they think that completely nonsensical stories with jokes that don’t make sense and characters that have gradually become watered down caricatures of themselves are better than most of the other stuff on the TV. I don’t know; I don’t watch a lot of TV, or at least not as much as they do. That said, the fact that something is comparatively better than something else doesn’t necessarily make it good.
It was with great trepidation that I stepped into The Simpsons Movie. I knew that I had to see it, and so I did. I went in, giving it the dubious honour of being my first date movie, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, while lame, it is not the worst movie ever unleashed upon the history of humanity (coincidentally, I’ve seen the person since, so it’s safe to say that this movie won’t ruin your chances if you see it).
However, I’m not convinced anyone can justify having made this movie. This is not because, as Homer says, “you’re all suckers, paying to see something you could see on TV for free”, it’s because pointless spectacle that doesn’t even look very good, and fleeting reference to “beloved” characters do not a good movie make. To their credit, with only five guest stars (three of whom are band members, and therefore count as one), the fifteen writers practically restrained themselves.
The story of this movie was top secret up until the moment of its release, it seemed. Everything from the trailers made it into the movie, no matter how disparate they may have seemed. Let’s see if I can put this together:
After Green Day dies in a terrible accident on Lake Springfield, Lisa goes on a crusade to clean up the town. The plan goes well, until Homer loses patience and dumps a silo full of pig excrement into the lake. Springfield gets declared the filthiest town in America and President Schwarzenegger (more on that later) appoints the EPA to take care of it – and they do, by enclosing Springfield in a dome.
Homer becomes hated by the townsfolk and escapes to Alaska, and there he upsets the family and they desert him and there’s a plot about him learning selflessness (as pointed out by Jeremy Parish, pretty much lifted directly from “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer”, in slightly different terms), and ultimately he saves the day and … Spoiler! … Dr. Nick dies for the sake of a cheap joke.
So there’s not much point in saying when I thought The Simpsons started losing its track, but research has proven to me that the end of Season Four was when its greatest days were over. You might say “But Alex! There were so many good episodes thereafter!” and while there have been good episodes spread across the fourteen years since 1993, the fifth season’s second episode was “Cape Feare”. I rest my case. Here is an interesting take on The Simpsons downfall; my rage is greater than Ian Jones’, but I dare not speak it lest I melt the internet.
While I would like to think that I have let many of my vestiges of snobbery melt away, I certainly can’t resist turning my nose up at the lowest common denominator. I went to see this movie because I wanted to masochistically shudder as the audience lapped it up. Have they been so conditioned that whatever yellow people do is hilarity? Is Homer, no longer a caring family man, funny? Is Bart Penis funny? (No, no it is not!)
Why exactly would Homer wish that Flanders’ announcement to church was that he was gay? Why would Ralph “like men now”?
I’ve been told that comedy doesn’t have to make sense, which is what makes it funny … but that’s BS. Really good comedy doesn’t have to make sense, but it requires a sort of internal logic. Springfield used to make sense; now anything happens and we’re expected to laugh. This simply isn’t good enough, and the writers work on the cynical platform of “we have a lot of characters that you ‘love’, so featuring them for a few seconds will fill you with warm feelings”. Wacky for wack’s sake is not how a comedy works. Comedy has to come from somewhere, and saying something about Mexico or gay people isn’t going to cut it for me. I witnessed an interesting discussion in a class last week about the existence of fictional universes and real worlds; it makes very little sense that the President of the United States in this movie would be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rainier Wolfcastle is already Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the point that the caricature of the real person in this movie looks like a palate swapped Wolfcastle, with exactly the same voice.
To add insult to, well, insult, it’s not even that well animated. The cel-shaded CG looks awful, and several times the frames are jerky. Call me crazy, but Futurama looked consistently better. Considering that The Simpsons is a by now inexplicable cash cow (I suppose that institutionalisation means people watch without question), I would have expected a bit more quality control.
The Simpsons Movie is not a total wash; I laughed several times, and Spider-Pig was of course a spot of hilarity. However, that’s in the trailer! You don’t need to see the movie to see Spider-Pig!
I’ll concede that this was not written for standard review purposes. By now you either like The Simpsons or you don’t. If you like The Simpsons still, then reading this may well have pissed you off. This movie was better than the disaster that it could have been, but that does not make it good by any stretch of the imagination. Still, if they can maintain this standard by the inevitable season 58, then … there’s hope yet for humanity? Or is it proof that humanity has failed? I’m not certain.