Tuesday, July 24, 2007


THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (animated comedy)
Voices: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith
Director: David Silverman
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? When "The Simpsons" was introduced to America in 1987 (on the Tracey Ullman Show), its satire about a dysfunctional Middle-America family captured the fancy of viewers. Since the debut of the series in December 1989, the show has aired 400 episodes over 18 seasons.

That’s a lot of water under the proverbial bridge, considering that the ‘dysfunctional American family’ format has been copied by other animated TV series like "South Park", "The Family Guy" and "American Dad" which all compete among themselves to test the limits of decency with sexual innuendoes and gay themes. In America, many parents would not allow their children to watch these family cartoons.
Now, would such ‘sweet controversy’ dog "The Simpsons Movie" and give the other copycats a run for the money? Are we going to gasp in horror at the antics of Homer and Bart as they break another sacred American taboo? Well, not really, unless you consider a glimpse of a naked Bart’s weenie a major movie taboo! No sir, this big screen version is rather tame and kosher – as the producers seem to be playing it safe for the global market.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The plot opens with a ‘Save-the-Environment’ campaign being run in Springfield as Lisa Simpson (voice of Yeardley Smith) tries to rally support for her Green Earth beliefs. As usual, we can expect Daddy Homer (Dan Castellaneta) to foul things up by dumping a load of animal waste into the river. This sets the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) headed by Russ Cargill (Albert Brooks) to employ a radical solution to ‘contain’ the problem, which, in turn, sets off a lynch mob against the Simpson family. They escape to Alaska but before they can settle down to a fresh start, Mummy Marge (Julie Kavner) decides to return to Springfield to save the town from destruction.

THE HIGHS & LOWS: One of the problems with this comedy is that the gags are so typically American that many of them are lost on our audience. One has to be a Simpsons fan to appreciate its rebellious humour and root for its characters. Homer, for example, is such a failure of a father that he can only exist in extreme caricature. He has always to be redeemed by the other family members (notably, Marge) in almost every episode and especially in this movie. Yes, it has become that predictable.
Still, there are some ‘clever’ moments, like the spoof on US President (Arnold) Schwarzenegger (Harry Shearer) who claims his job is ‘to lead and not read’ government policies; a surprise ‘cameo’ by Tom Hanks, and a Russ Cargill who reminds us of a US politician-turned-bleeding heart environmentalist.
I also like the subplot about Bart’s relationship with his neighbour, Mr Flanders, and Lisa’s budding romance with an Irish kid. These help to develop the characters and lend credence to the story. However, that ‘touch of controversy’ – the compelling factor that makes us plonk out 10 bucks for the movie – is missing here.

THE LOWDOWN: Come to think of it, I had laughed more watching the TV episodes than I did at this movie.

(Note: Please stay back for the gags at the end credits – presumably an attempt by the film-makers to augment the comedy).


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