Simpsons Movie, The (US - DVD R1)
Gabe takes a look at the new animated film based on the obscure 90's sit-com
Lisa Simpson convinces Springfield to clean up the polluted lake. Meanwhile, Homer Simpson adopts a pig. ‘Spider Pig’ fills a silo with its excrement, and in a moment of weakness Homer dumps it into the lake, pushing the pollution beyond the brink and turning Springfield into an official environmental hazard. President Schwarzenegger seals Springfield in a giant fibreglass dome, and the angry population chases the Simpsons to Alaska, where things get worse.
Nothing can kill The Simpsons, and I have no idea why. Fox television is notorious for cancelling show after show before giving it a fair shake, but for some reason they can’t seem to let their original cash cow go, even though it hasn’t been remotely relevant for more than a decade. A freaking decade!. I was one of those idealistic fans that refused to admit that the show had been slowly sliding into mediocrity since just after its fifth or six season, but eight blahgillion episodes later I’m unable to lie to myself any more. The television incarnation of the lovable yellow family hasn’t made me laugh heartily for a very long time.
I originally saw the severely belated motion picture under mild protest, but left the theatre with a general sense of basic satisfaction (how’s that for a vague analysis?). I probably should’ve left well enough alone, because this second viewing on DVD was an arduous experience. The Simpsons Movie is just about the most average, middle of the road, half and half thing ever made. Ideally the film seems to be aimed at people that have watched between ten and twenty episodes of the series. Anyone coming in blind won’t have any idea what’s going on because none of the characters, specifically not the guest cast, are properly introduced or structured. This should please series fans who’d probably rather not sit through redundant exposition, however, these people will have already seen everything here on a smaller production scale.
This isn’t the first time Homer has lost the respect of his family. This isn’t the first bump in Homer and Marge’s marriage. This isn’t the first time Bart has bonded with Flanders, the first time Homer’s had an epiphany while hallucinating, or the first time the Simpsons have run for their lives from Springfield. This isn’t even the first time Springfield’s been stuck on the verge of utter destruction. Even the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, based on a relatively repetitive and plot-less series, had something new to add to the property.
The animation looks good, sometimes successfully wrenching a giggle through pure slapstick appeal, and the melding of traditional cell and computer generated mediums is satisfactory. Homer’s Eskimo induced nightmare and the action finale are both particularly impressive. All the actors bring their A-game, specifically Nancy Cartwright, Yeardly Smith and Julie Kavner, who give Bart, Lisa, and Marge a touch of emotional depth beyond what they normally display in the series. Bart’s drunken hotel exploits (“I’m troubled”), Lisa’s adorable moments with her new boyfriend Colin, and Marge’s taped confession to Homer are all standout sequences in a painfully average feature.
I gave the Futurama disc a pass because I knew my Fox studio supplied check disc was not dual-layered, and assumed that the compression noise wouldn’t show on the real discs consumers would later buy. This time I have to acknowledge the compression noise because it’s pretty obnoxious. I’m going to assume that the final release will look better, but based on what I’ve got here things are blocky, pixilated and lumpy, especially during quick movement. If this disc is to be believed the colours are quite vibrant, details sharp, and overall it should be impressive, especially on Blu-ray. I’m also happy that the producers went with the full scope ratio, adding a whole lot of theatrical appeal.
Having The Simpsons in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround is pretty cool, I will admit. Animated productions with a decent budget are always fun in surround sound, and the sound designers here have gone all out. The 2.35:1 ratio sets the film apart from the series, but the full surround sound is the real seller here. Of course all these well mixed voices and sound effect are nothing without a musical score, and this one, by Hans freaking Zimmer (?!?) is really over the top, but fitting. The reprise of the ‘Spider Pig’ during Homer’s hallucination was one of two belly laughs the movie got out of me.
Both commentary tracks make me want to like the movie more than I do, mostly because I really like the people behind the film, and came to like them through the Futurama commentaries. The first commentary, which features James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully, David Silverman, and actors Dan Castellaneta, Yeardly Smith, actually pauses when a big point must be made. It’s kind of shocking the first time it happens, especially since I had no idea it was going to happen. Most of the commentary is devoted to the many, many changes made to the script during production. The effort that went into producing such an utterly average feature is rather depressing, but it sounds like these folks understand where they fell short. Strangely the actors are almost silent, it’s almost like Yeardly Smith and Dan Castellaneta are sharing a mic and can’t speak at the same time. The directors-only track (with David Silverman, Mike B. Anderson, Steven Dean Moore and Rich Moore) is pretty repetitive coming after the other track and its pauses, but it’s nice for completests and technical junkies.
There are six deleted scenes, fully produced, with an introduction from producer Al Jean. Based on the commentary tracks I’m assuming that there’s actually about thirteen hours worth of deleted footage, but this is probably the only stuff that made it to completed animation. Really none of the scenes would’ve added anything but a few jokes to the final film, though it’s interesting to note that the first deleted scene features an alternate Russ Cargill design (though Albert Brooks’ performance is more or less identical).
Then we’ve got four ads for the movie described as featurettes in the press materials. ‘Homer’s Monologue on the Tonight Show’ is exactly what it sounds like, and not very funny. ‘The Simpsons Judge American Idol’ is exactly what it sounds like, and I’m sure it would be funny if I watched American Idol and hated the judges. ‘Homer Introduces American Idol’ is exactly what it sounds like, and not very funny. ‘Let’s All Go to the Lobby’ is that same old reel where snacks sing a song about eating them, then Homer sneaks up behind them and eats them. Aqua Teen Hunger Force did it better.
The lacklustre disc ends with a bunch of teasers and trailers for the film, including the one that ripped off the South Park movie’s awesome idea.
The Simpsons Movie is a vanilla effort from a hard working team that just can’t seem to find any new ideas after almost two decades and more than four hundred episodes. There’re a few laughs, some nice animation, and the performers are in top form, but the film itself isn’t really worth more than one viewing in my book. The relatively scant extras in the day and age of mammoth multi-disc sets leads me to believe a double dip may be on the horizon, and the film’s worldwide gross of more than $525 million smackers leads me to believe a sequel won’t be too far behind.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 18th December 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Producers, Writers, Directors and Cast Commentary, Directors Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Promos, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Silverman, Mike B. Anderson, Steven Dean Moore and Rich Moore
Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Yeardly Smith, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 87 minutes