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The Simpsons Movie

Maybe we take the half-hour The Simpsons show for granted. The visually sophisticated 90-minute The Simpsons Movie clocks an extra hour of consistent laughs and comparable political jabs, but it's precisely what creators say it isn't: A long Simpsons episode.


Trouble begins to brew for the Springfield clan when Homer rescues a pig from the butcher's guillotine. But Homer doesn't want to eat his new pot-bellied pet—he takes it home and showers it with affection. Seeing Homer be a doting dad to a pig pisses off Bart--and leaves him vulnerable to the niceties of neighborino Ned Flanders. Meanwhile, Lisa's grassroots efforts to save the polluted Lake Springfield have paid off: the Environmental Protection Agency erects a cement barrier around it to protect it from its residents. The EPA's cockamamie plan actually works--until Homer decides to dump a homemade silo filled with pig poop into it, creating a toxic cesspool. In a jab at FEMA and the New Orleans Superdome calamity, the EPA retaliates by isolating Springfield under a giant Plexiglas-like dome, leaving its citizens without food, electricity or a way out. When Springfield residents try to lynch Homer and exact revenge, the Simpsons escape the dome via a sinkhole in Maggie's sandbox. But while the Simpsons escape Springfield, they can't flee their conscience—and Homer must return to save his hometown from the mess he created. It's a classic Simpsons tale that ends with the show's trademark theme of redemption. It won't disappoint fans, but the story hardly warrants a feature presentation.


Surprisingly, producer James L. Brooks and creator Matt Groening didn't go to town with guest star appearances on The Simpsons Movie, something that often plagues the TV series. With the exception of an opening number by Green Day and a closing remark by a famed film star (OK, it's Tom Hanks), the actors who voice the Fox animated TV sitcom are the big-screen stars here, including Dan Castellaneta (Homer/Krusty the Clown/Itchy/Barney/Grampa/Mayor Quimby), Hank Azaria (Moe/Apu/The Sea Captain/Professor Frink/Comic Book Guy/Chief Wiggum/Lou), Harry Shearer (Principal Skinner/Lenny/Dr. Hibbert/Ned Flanders/Mr. Burns/Rev Lovejoy), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart/Maggie/Ralph/Nelson/Todd Flanders), and Yeardley Smith (Lisa). And just like the episodic Simpsons characters, the feature characters do some uncontainable thing and eventually learn the error of their ways. But while Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie take center stage, other Springfield locals—such as Mr. Burns and Smithers--hardly make an appearance, let alone Patty and Selma Bouvier.


What separates The Simpsons Movie from the TV series is, according to director David Silverman, the production's scale. This translates to more characters in each frame, richer colors and textures, and greater latitude for camera movement. ''Normally, you have a crowd shot, the cut to a close-up,'' Silverman says of a scene in which a mob congregates outside the Simpsons' home. ''But I wanted to give the scene a lot of energy, so I kept moving the camera into the crowd.'' But while the feature is visually more dynamic than the series, it's hardly something Simspons fans will take notice of. The series has a following because of its political and social lampooning and its 22-filled-minutes of well-timed jokes; there are no Pixar-type expectations here. Yet the film's storyline, as well as the character's story arcs, is no more relevant than a TV episode. The emphasis, so to speak, is on the wrong syllable. Panoramic views of Springfield and an in-depth look a Milhouse's street and its one-level homes, are intriguing tidbits fans are more likely craving, and more of these should have been offered up in the movie adaptation. Show creators said they waited 18 years to bring The Simpsons to the big screen because they wanted to create a story that demanded the scope offered by a film, but after a year-and-a-half in the making, it doesn't live up to the hype.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.