Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Simpsons try to nail a big-screen hit

Summary: It may be heresy, but I'm not beaming about "The Simpsons Movie." It's good enough and smart enough and most people probably will like it, but I certainly wasn't rolling in the aisles, a good thing, too, because the theater had stadium seating. Still, I laughed and smiled throughout.

I traveled a long way to see "The Simpsons Movie,'' which was previewed at a Denver theater located far enough from where I live that I was sorry I hadn't packed a lunch. The kid in me kept screaming, "Are we there yet?" The adult in me said, "Shut up and count the big box stores."

You really don't need to know about the plot of "The Simpsons Movie," which builds toward an environmentally acceptable message, and you certainly don't need to know about the characters, all of whom have become familiar even to those who don't watch the series. And you certainly don't need to be instructed that lots of little gags pop around the movie's fringes. Some 11 writers were summoned to create the movie, and I could almost see them dividing up the frame to see who could stuff in the most jokes.

Because studios always are screaming that comedies should be seen with audiences, I'll give you my reading on the 600 or so people with whom I got Simpsoned. I'd say there was steady laughter, but few moments when the audience responded en masse to the mixture of purposefully dopey humor, clever upholstery and easy-going irreverence. And the presence of a strong representation of younger children -- always suckers for slapstick -- seemed to confirm a sad truth: "The Siimpsons" are still willing (even eager) to take on targets such as religion and government, but they've slid pretty far off the cutting edge.

Still, if you know and love the long-running TV show -- 18 years and 400 episodes -- you'll certainly get plenty of what you came for, and I suppose there's something to be said for a movie in which Homer adopts a pig, thinks about kissing it on the mouth only to be interrupted when Marge, his gargle-voiced wife, breaks in on him.

And, yes, despite a PG-13 rating, you will get to see full-frontal Bart nudity. To borrow Bart's very own word, his "doodle" is briefly on display.

1 comment:

DrD said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I plan on checking it before it gets to DVD.

What I am mos interested in is how the structure of a 24 minute sitcom gets expanded into a 90 minute movie.

Before you accuse me of be being all structural or deconstruction on you, I'd just point out that a big component of the Simpsons success is that it took the sitcom formula and increased the comedic pace. There have been plenty of smart sitcoms filled with memorable characters. But the Simpsons took advantage of the animation format to add more gags per minute than anything before.

Can that pace sustain for longer than a commercially interrupted 30 minute block?

Or is this just a bit of barking up the wrong tree?

-- David