The Simpsons Movie 

Three stars (PG-13)

Ideally, I would be writing about The Bourne Ultimatum in this space, but the advance screening for the highly-anticipated spy thriller comes after NUVO’s print deadline, so instead, let’s compare notes on The Simpsons Movie. I’ll put mine here and you can e-mail me yours (if you have the ability, feel free to contact me telepathically).

I normally don’t reference box office numbers, but The Simpsons Movie earned $74 million domestically in its opening weekend, which is so amazing it warrants a mention. Seventy-four million dollars for an 18-year-old TV series with hundreds of vintage episodes available for free in syndication. Wow.

Given the massive opening weekend receipts, my supposition is that virtually the only people reading this are those who have seen the movie (along with the fine folks who simply can’t resist perusing my award-winning, non-pretentious, consumer-friendly prose, of course), so I won’t wax rhapsodic about the majesty of The Simpsons TV series at its best, because you already know. You also know that, while the series is past its glory days, it’s still usually better than most other TV comedies.

So let’s get to it. Did the movie deliver on its promise? No, but then again, my expectations were huge. I assumed that, given the all-star writing team and the powers-that-be’s eagerness to prove the naysayers wrong, The Simpsons Movie would play like a feature-length version of one of its greatest episodes ever. I expected to be howling through most of the feature and savoring the occasional tender moments.

I didn’t laugh as much as I expected. I chuckled a lot and laughed hard a few times, but mostly I was quietly amused. Mind you, I enjoyed myself, just not in the consistently loud fashion I thought I would. Some scenes were priceless — Bart’s nude skateboard ride through town with the hilarious “doodle” reveal, the side-by-side panicked reactions of patrons of Moe’s Tavern and members of the Rev. Lovejoy’s flock — but I wish there had been a few more of them.

As for the tender moments, they were there, but handled more melodramatically than necessary. Fine, Homer’s thoughtless actions cause Marge to reevaluate their marriage and Bart to turn to Ned Flanders as an alternate father figure. So what? Homer’s self-centered idiocy has endangered the whole town countless times over the years, triggering outraged reactions from Marge and the kids. I’ve no problem with Marge reevaluating the marriage again, but the pathos was excessive, even for pathos. As for Bart turning to Flanders, give me a break. The kid turned to Flanders early in the series, only to end up tormenting the man almost as much as Homer.

Other thoughts: Loved the widescreen framing of the film, hopefully next time there will be more funny business to catch on the sidelines. Loved seeing so many Springfield citizens, hopefully next time the supporting characters will get more than one or two lines each.

A few hours after the screening, I expressed my disappointment with the movie to a friend and said I doubted I would watch it again until the presumably extras-packed DVD comes out. Given a few days, I find myself wanting to check it out on the big screen once more. Now that I know what The Simpsons Movie isn’t, I can better appreciate what it is.

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