Thursday, July 26, 2007

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE - see it for the genius that is SPIDER-PIG!

This review is brought to you by guest reviewer, Nikolai, who can usually be found here:

The Simpsons Movie is a hugely quotable, laugh-a-minute riot, that'll leave fans of the Simpsons ultimately unsatisfied. Its plot is shallow, weak, barely worthy of a 30 minute episode, and far too focussed on the Simpsons family (and especially Homer) at the unfortunate exclusion of other characters. Those of you expecting some sort of extravaganza - a tour-de-force of the Simpsons - will be disappointed, and left feeling ultimately empty and hollow as I was. That said, it's a very watchable and funny movie - especially for the first half hour - and well worth the tenner you'll be paying to get in.

This film has been 10 years in the making. The Simpsons Movie website was purchased in 1997 - and they've been planning ever since. Given that timescale, it's more than a little disappointing that the movie runs out of genuine ideas and plot only 30 or 40 minutes in. From then on, up until the final 5 or 10 minutes, it relies on rehashed plots and rehashed jokes from the TV series. The film slowly descends in the second half from being a self-referential laugh riot, to a serious family soap opera interspersed with the occasional joke.

But then, who's suprised? The Simpsons franchise has only been occasionally funny for the last 3 or 4 series - with jokes and plots being recycled from a bygone era of success. I'd hoped that the film would come up with some fresh ideas to revitalise the franchise, as had South Park Bigger, Longer, Uncut. But it didn't - rather it amplified the same unseemly trend as its TV counterpart - focussing more and more on Homer Simpson gags - at the expense of the other characters, and other plot lines.

Even Homer's family suffer. The Lisa plotline in the film is totally and completely pointless - and a re-hash from countless other episodes. The Bart plotline is similarly rehashed (from at least 2 episodes) and is, if anything, less believable than Lisa's. Marge doesn't have an independent plotline - and the other characters only get brief cameo nods - without actually contributing substantially to the film. As if to typify this "opportunity missed" theme, the use of Arnie as a character is completely wasted - the scenes in which he appears are neither funny or satirical - they're just bleak, and come across as patronising liberal social comment.

It's strange actually, when I left the cinema I'd expected to be much less critical of this movie. But the more the minutes passed, the more empty I felt about this effort. A film that'd shown so much promise in the first 20 to 30 minutes had ended up delivering only as much plot as a single TV episode - absolutely no character development whatsoever - and less involvement from non-Simpsons characters than your average 7pm slot on Sky One. And even given these constraints, much of the potential within the plot was left unexploited - making way for a series of shallow and unsatisfying gags.

Don't get me wrong - this was, for the most part, a very funny movie. You'll laugh a great deal, especially if you're new to the Simpsons, or not much of a fan, and therefore you haven't seen it all before. And even if you have, it's worth the admission just for having seen it, and for all the genuinely funny one-liners and physical comedy. But if, like me, you've been following the franchise since its inception - you'll find this an ultimately hollow experience, which in many ways typifies what's gone wrong with the show.

This is not the "South Park" style rebirth I was looking for, and unless Groening and co. can find some new and fresh ideas pretty damned quickly - this 90 minute episode could be the long, drawn out death knell for the franchise. That would be a real shame - they deserved to go out with a bang.

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE is on release in the USA, Belgium, Egypt, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Malysia, New Zealand, Portugal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, the UK. It opens in Austria, Canada, Colombia, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Spain and Venezuala. The movie opens on August 3rd on Denmark and Poland and in Hong Kong, Hungary, South Korea on August 9th. It opens in the Netherlands and Russia on August 16th and in Brazil on August 17th. It opens in Greece on August 30th, in Italy on September 14th and in Japan on March 1st 2008, which seems a bit randomly late doesn't it?!

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