THE SIMPSONS MOVIE starts with the Simpson family attending the ITCHY AND SCRATCHY MOVIE, with Homer loudly complaining that he feels like a sucker for paying money to see something that he can see on television for free. Maybe Itchy and Scratchy didn’t push any envelopes, but despite Homer’s literal finger-pointing, this is something you won’t see for free in the series. Take Homer’s inappropriate bonding with a pig. Not that it’s really much of a shock, considering his long-established and deeply abiding passion for pork and pork products, it’s more like a natural progression, but would >that< make it past a censor. I think not.
You get the feeling that Matt Groening and company have been waiting years to use of some of the material in and it was worth the wait. Yet the wonderful thing is that even though there is gratuitous nudity, violence, strong language, and drug use, it’s all done with a winking, nodding acknowledgment that it’s gratuitous, and yet at the same time, it’s gratuitous in the service of the greater good, that would be making this the most completely hilarious film of the summer.
The story is a wonderfully crafted bit of whimsy that folds in on itself and then back out again the way a particularly striking example of origami does. Homer has once again threatened the well-being of himself, his loved ones, and everyone else in Springfield because of his other abiding passion, donuts. Never mind the specifics, suffice to say that as a result, Springfield is cut off from civilization, Homer and family are the object of an angry, torch-carrying mob, and no one bothers to thank Grandpa for trying to warn everyone what was coming with that fit of prophecy he had in church back during reel one.
The jokes are sly, multi-layered, and blissfully non-PC. Pomposity, clichés, and anything approaching the meaning of life are skewered with the refreshing sense of anarchy that is the hallmark of the Simpson’s franchise. Bad boy Bart may bond with the bane of his father’s existence, Flanders, the cheery, bible-thumping neighbor. Homer’s long-suffering, tall-haired wife, Marge may seriously question what she’s doing standing by her chubby hubby, but the Simpson’s universe remains true to itself. Hence the shaman who help Homer in a time of existential crisis doesn’t use the usual appendages when she directs Homer on the path of enlightenment. And, further hence, Groening and company let their imaginations soar not just with Homer’s vision quest (more thoroughly explored but no more imaginative than the one he experienced with an over-achieving chili pepper in the series), but also as they extrapolate outcomes from today’s trends in politics (Schwarzenegger as President), and business (a man named Cargill running the EPA). The gags fly with wild abandon and most of them are not just good, they are great, even the ones that are so quick as to be almost thowaways, the tipping point for civilization finally crumbling for example, (running out of coffee is, apparently, never a good idea), or Lisa’s dreams of saving the environment turning people snarky at first, and then even snarkier once she’s convinced them.
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE makes use of some slicker animation than the series normally employs, the torches burn with a fire that is maybe a soupcon too lifelike, but it relies strictly on the sharp smarts of its writing. Popular culture has never come in for a more thorough, more righteous, pummeling. Nor has the family unit ever been more celebrated as the splendidly dysfunctional Simpsons muddle through with everyone’s shortcomings creating something, that if not quite greater than the sum of its parts, at doesn’t reduce the planet to a burning cinder. Not yet, anyway.