Making the Grades
Many TV shows are appearing in theaters lately, but the cinematic outing for The Simpsons is perhaps the most anticipated little-screen to big-screen conversion ever -- and there is small wonder why. With 400 episodes running over the past 18 years, is there a single person in all of North America who hasn't at least heard of dumbbell Homer or his sarcastic son Bart? Few movies offer this level of pre-release recognition.
But The Simpsons are also known for an edgy "irreverence" (quoting a word selected by the MPAA ratings board to describe the humor found in this film), which is squarely aimed at topical newsmakers. Politicians, celebrities, religious and ethnic groups from around the world have been the focus of creator Matt Groening's cynical viewpoint. Despite the fact it sometimes ruffles feathers, I must admit that select episodes of this series have featured some of the best laughs the vast wasteland of prime time television has had to offer.
Such is the case with the first 20 or so minutes of this movie. Back-to-back punch lines taking shots at Live Earth concerts (popular band Green Day hosts an environmental concert on a barge in Lake Springfield, only to have garbage thrown at them by local citizens), camcording movies in theaters, and the stupidity of Homer (Dan Castellaneta) and Bart (Nancy Cartwright) daring each other to do ridiculous things (leading Bart to skateboard through Springfield completely nude, with a very brief and hardly detailed view of his "noodle"). After that, the jokes subside and both the water in Lake Springfield and the plot begin to thicken.
Pollution in the lake has reached critical levels, and after Homer makes his contribution, the pond turns into an environmental disaster. In response, the EPA and US President Schwarzenegger determine the only thing to do is put a glass dome over Springfield, locking both the pollution and population inside.
As word gets out that Homer was the final straw causing the entire city to be imprisoned, the family becomes the target of angry mobs. Using an unexpected escape route, Homer leads Marge (Julie Kavner), Bart, Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and Maggie (Nancy Cartwright) to a place where nobody will know them -- Alaska. However, even the northern frontier has television, and when Marge discovers Springfield is about to be obliterated, she determines to save her community -- with or without her befuddled husband.
The best rule of thumb for parents weighing the appropriateness of this film for their family may be to gauge how comfortable they are with the TV series, because there is little content beyond that level of content in this movie. A sexually rude gesture and the aforementioned skateboarding exhibitionist are likely the only things you wouldn't bump into in an average episode. Of course, that does mean you can expect a variety of mild and a few moderate profanities, sexual innuendo, and rough cartoon violence -- including Homer's propensity to use choking as the preferred disciplinary method with his son.
Unfortunately, it's not just the content that isn't any different from the television show. The script, although years in the making with nearly a dozen different writers working it over, really doesn't accomplish anything more than what could have happened in a two-part TV episode (the movie even parodies this idea by displaying a "To Be Continued" sign midway through). While it's great the creators didn't go overboard with rude sexual and political humor, one can't help but agree with a line Home utters in the opening minutes of this film. After viewing a movie of Itchy and Scratchy in Springfield's theater, the loud mouth declares, "I can't believe we are paying to see something we can get free on TV!"
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Simpsons Movie.
Do you think the creators of this movie are mocking the environmental movement or supporting it?
How does Homer Simpson represent middle-aged men? How do you think this series may have been received if this character was female or of a different ethnicity?