Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.
What's the Big Deal?
The Simpsons Movie is an animated comedy film released in 2007, and it is a big-screen adaptation of the long-running TV show The Simpsons created by Matt Groening. Directed by series stalwart David Silverman, the film follows the Simpson family on a wild adventure which sees Springfield placed in mortal danger thanks to an unwitting Homer and a pig. The film stars the usual vocal talents of Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer and Pamela Hayden as well as guest stars Tom Hanks and Green Day. Attempts to make a film version of the sitcom were started way back in 2001, but development was stalled due to the lack of a script and production staff who were working on the show simultaneously. The film was warmly received by critics who praised the film's humour and emotional depth. Audiences also enjoyed the film, helping the film earn more than $536 million - making it the second highest-earning, traditionally animated film in history behind The Lion King. Plans for a sequel were put in place in 2018 but have stalled due to the global pandemic.
What's It About?
At the end of a concert held on a barge on Lake Springfield, the band Green Day anger the locals by trying to talk to them about climate change. The resulting riot results in the barge being sunk (killing the band in the process) and pollution in Lake Springfield rising to critical levels. Later, at a memorial for the group, Grandpa Simpson has a terrifying vision of a forthcoming disaster that will kill them all but only Marge takes him seriously. While a newly-inspired Lisa and her new boyfriend Colin attempt to lead efforts to get the residents of Springfield to become more environmentally friendly, Homer adopts a pig at a Krusty Burger which causes Bart to feel neglected and turn to neighbour Ned Flanders.
After a while, Homer finds a solution to the messy business of looking after a pig at their Springfield residence and starts storing the pig's waste at a silo next to Lake Springfield. Unfortunately, the silo causes the lake to become a dangerous environmental hazard and attracts the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their zealous boss, Russ Cargill. The decision is made - albeit somewhat at random - by President Schwarzenegger for Springfield to be placed beneath a giant glass dome, causing untold suffering to the citizens within. And when they discover that Homer is responsible for this, the Simpsons become public enemy number one...
What's to Like?
Few would argue that on TV at least, The Simpsons have had their day - the series has been on TV since 1989, after all. But back in the mid-2000's, this argument didn't have quite so much weight and I believe this film proves that they hadn't lost their way at that point. The show has always been funny in my opinion, thanks to its whip-smart scripting and consistent quality from the cast who have arguably perfected their performances after playing these characters for so long. Unsurprisingly, the film is no different - the script isn't afraid to parody a number of targets like Disney or action movies but also containing satirical swipes at politics, celebrity culture and censorship. Just like the show used to.
What separates the film from its TV origins is the quality of the animation which looks amazing on a big screen. The film fills every scene with details and background characters that you'd easily miss on TV and the show's bright colours and instantly recognisable style looks fresh and reinvigorated. Crucially, it still looks like the show and they may sound a stupid thing to say but hear me out - it's refreshing to see a cinematic animation that isn't completely CG. Other than Studio Ghibli, the format has more-or-less disappeared from theatres altogether and this film feels like a gloriously indulgent celebration of the artists and animators behind the scenes. And why not celebrate them?
- In total, the film took nine years to develop. It was green-lit by Fox back in 1997 but the voice cast didn't sign up to the project until 2001. Script development also proved problematic as ideas were constantly being dropped and used in the TV show. In all, around 160 scripts were written before the final draft was completed and the finished draft was kept so secret that each copy was shredded after every reading.
- The film makes reference to the long-running gag about where in the US Springfield actually is. A scene depicts four other states that border Springfield - Nevada, Ohio, Kentucky and Maine - which is obviously impossible.
- Kevin Bacon, Kelsey Grammer, Isla Fisher, Minnie Driver, Edward Norton and Erin Brockovich all recorded voice cameos which were ultimately cut from the finished film.
What's Not to Like?
Ultimately, your enjoyment of The Simpsons Movie depends on your enjoyment of the show. Personally, I haven't watched the show for a long time but only because it was never must-watch TV in the first place. But the episodes I have seen have been enjoyable but I feel the series has suffered from over-exposure. It's literally on TV all the time and it's difficult to imagine a minute on planet Earth when it isn't being broadcast somewhere. Even if we don't watch the show regularly, we still feel like we know these characters and the movie doesn't do enough to convince me to start watching it again. It feels too knowing now, as though the show is aware of its own omnipotence, so most characters are given a fleeting appearance or cameo shot and there is next to no character development whatsoever.
Not that I was expecting any, of course. The Simpsons is largely the same show it was back when it started, just with a much bigger list of supporting characters so it's little wonder that it feels stale. The film simply feels like an extended episode although one that benefits from improved visuals. It's difficult to get excited about it which is a real shame considering the sheer effort it took to bring the project to fruition. It suffers from most TV-to-film adaptations in that it's just a bigger episode of the show - fine if you're a fan but less so if you're not. If they were hoping to entice viewers back to the show or capture new fans then it might not be the roaring success they were hoping for. Worse still, the delays have meant the film failed to capitalise on the show's popularity - who knows how much it would have made if The Simpsons were still in vogue?
Should I Watch It?
The Simpsons Movie won't do much to bring lapsed fans back to the franchise but this big-screen version does renew interest. The colourful visuals and trademark humour are thankfully intact and the film's story gives our favourite yellow family all the licence needed to have some serious fun. It reminds you how good the show used to be and for casual viewers, the film is a good laugh. It's just a pity that they couldn't bring us the film back when the series was peaking in popularity but you can't have everything, can you?
Great For: casual fans of the show, anyone who has never watched the show but wanted to, audiences in need of a good chuckle
Not So Great For: anyone bored of The Simpsons, elderly Republicans, other animated TV shows
What Else Should I Watch?
Besides endless big-screen adaptations of kids cartoons, there aren't many adult animated shows that get the silver screen treatment. The only one I can think of is South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut which was released when the series was red-hot back in 1999, eight years before this film came out. Based on the series by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the film also satirises American culture including censorship, Disney films, musicals and even the controversy surrounding the show itself. Fans couldn't get enough and the film made a healthy amount at the box office as well as angering those who didn't get it. In fact, the film was the highest earning R-rated animated film in history until 2016's moronic Sausage Party which, frankly, is absurd.
Other than that, the vast majority of films based on animated shows is largely based on more kiddie-friendly fare. Naturally, Japan has produced big screen outings for the likes of Digimon, Pokemon and Astro Boy - the latter of which proved so disastrous that it caused the closure of the studio behind it, Imagi. Perhaps more suitable fare includes the trademark clay-mation style of Aardman (the guys behind the excellent Wallace & Gromit) with Shaun The Sheep Movie while the ever-popular Spongebob Squarepants has enjoyed three films, the most recent being Sponge On The Run in 2020. Chances are, there will be a film version of your favourite kids show somewhere.
Main Cast (voice performance)
Homer Simpson, Abe Simpson, Krusty The Clown, Groundskeeper Willie, Barney Gumble, Mayor Quimby
Marge Simpson, Patty Bouvier, Selma Bouvier
Bart Simpson, Ralph Wiggum, Todd Flanders, Nelson Muntz, Maggie Simpson
Moe Szyslak, Chief Wiggum, Professor Frink, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Comic Book Guy
Ned Flanders, Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, Reverend Lovejoy, Seymour Skinner, President Arnold Schwarzenegger
Milhouse Van Houten, Rod Flanders
Agnes Skinner, Crazy Cat Lady, Cookie Kwan
Albert Brooks (credited as A. Brooks)
James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Schwartzwelder & Jon Vitti*
Release Date (UK)
25th July, 2007
Animated, Adventure, Comedy
© 2022 Benjamin Cox