I've just come back from seeing The Simpsons Movie, and I've come to the conclusion that all the hype surrounding this big fantastic movie was actually warranted... somewhat. To say that this the same Simpsons that you see on regular television would be untrue. Something was lost somewhere along the translation between the television series and the big screen, but exactly what that was, I can't quite put my finger on it. I'm not trying to indicate that the film was a poor effort; on the contrary, it was quite entertaining and just what Simpsons fans needed: a fresh injection of their favourite yellow family. Still, the movie emits an entirely different vibe from what we have become accustomed to over the first 18 seasons of the show.
Before I continue, I'd like to make a note that I would like to write this review without giving away too many spoilers for those who have chosen to take a nap instead of take a trip to their local cinema to watch the film. That being said, all I can say about the plot is this: Homer unintentionally dooms Springfield. Watch it to find out more!
All the usual elements that keeps us interested in the series in the first place are indeed present. Homer endures more physical pain than any real person could possibly tolerate. Bart gets choked after saying something annoying to his father. Lisa is pro-environment. Chief Wiggum is the worst police chief in known history. Marge disapproves of pretty much everything her husband does. Alright. However, much of the humour that makes the television show so endearing or downright interesting is less frequently presented in film form, replaced by more obscured humour that sometimes takes a little time to absorb and appreciate. The humour is often more verbal than visual; physical comedy alone is not what The Simpsons is about. But perhaps this is a blessing in disguise, as we finally get to see the Simpsons expressing their more human sides instead of just letting inane events occur on a regular basis and taking them with a grain of salt. This movie illustrates well how the rest of the family truly reacts to Homer's antics (which in this case end up being more consequential than his usual fare). Of particular note is a video message created by Marge to Homer, in which she pours her heart out and tells him that she can no longer be supportive of his self-indulgent spontaneity and decides to leave him to his own whims. Just the vocal delivery alone is indicative of a passion that we hardly get to see on the small screen, adding more depth to Marge's character. This may have also been one of the few instances in Simpsons history where I felt a little choked up while watching; truly, this is a moment not to be missed. On the other end of the spectrum, Homer is at his most selfish and incompetent, but that's typical. Of course, it wouldn't be The Simpsons without him figuring out that he is incomplete without his family's love and support... so his character pulls a 180° and becomes a better man for the thousandth time. (He will never learn from his mistakes, will he?)
Another great divide between the movie and the television series lies within what can and cannot be shown or said on television. The one element here that has caused the most buzz is the exposure of Bart's genitals. After being dared to skateboard to Krusty Burger naked, he actually goes through with it, and after having his manhood covered by countless objects on his travels, we get a one-second glimpse of the "item" -- a possibly controversial moment in the film, one during which much of the audience in the theatre gasped in bewildered amusement. Still, it's just something to keep the audience entertained, I suppose, although having Rod and Todd Flanders later accidentally pray on their meal for the "wonderful penis" is just strange. Another unusual moment here is the inclusion of Homer giving the middle finger -- I thought that was rather out of character and just plain unusual to see in any Simpsons production. Homer is usually prone to porting an angry visage and shaking his fist at whatever has upset him (or possibly, if we think back to the third season, waking a rake frantically in his underwear). These are the primary examples of elements they just can't show on television (although the genital issue was not harshly criticized when animated male genitalia appeared in an episode of the prime-time show "Bob & Margaret" a while back).
Still, the film must be lauded for its production values. Unlike the television episodes being prepared these days, the movie was created using hand-drawn animation (as opposed to the more digital style of animation used for the show). The animation is very well done (although I did notice a couple of less-than-perfect moments closer to the beginning of the film). The animation is much more detailed than the usual televised fare (with a full-fledged movie comes more attention to detail). Along the same lines of quality is the voice acting. Expect nothing less than what you've already come to love as all the main characters come to life on the big screen in all their aural glory. Even veteran Simpsons guest star Albert Brooks makes a cameo as the film's main villain, injecting his normal over-the-top crazy-with-power antagonistic vocal art -- and that's cool. You will notice that voice acting for many of the secondary characters is minimal with more focus on the primary family. I appreciated that; I feared that the writers would oversaturate the film with too many instances of overblown annoying characters like Moe and Chief Wiggum, who have come to be utilized far too frequently on the small screen.
For a movie that went through over 100 script revisions during its production, the end product feels very polished and reflects well what Simpsons fans have come to adore. However, you should take caution in that if you watch The Simpsons for its secondary cast, you'll be quite disappointed to know that most of them have been cut back to minimal screen time (or discarded altogether). It should also be noted that this movie is rated PG (or PG-13 in the United States, and various other similar PG-esque ratings throughout the world), and I do believe that parents should watch the movie with younger children, as there are a couple of "questionable" moments which I have already discussed. I still highly recommend this movie if you're a Simpsons fan -- and if you're not, this movie might just change your mind about the while Simpsons phenomenon. D'oh?