Friday, June 28, 2013

The Simpsons Movie

Movies are a different game than television episodes.  Even though its now been about six years since the movie's release, I still have to warn those who still haven't seen it that there will be SPOILERS within this article.  Do not click on it unless you want to be spoiled, don't care, or like most people who like the show, have already seen it by now.

I'm using the reviewer program I wrote up last year to review this movie; but it was intended to review 20 minute episodes, not full feature movies.  However, the movie is basically four episodes fused into one, so I will be breaking this down into four segments (each with their own score) before getting into my final review score at the end.

First Twenty Minutes
After the Simpsons go to watch the Itchy & Scratchy Movie (which is now pretty dated: Itchy/Hillary 2008), Green Day hosts a concert on Springfield Lake.  After three and half hours, they attempt to deliver a message on pollution, but the crowd refuses to let that happen, throwing stuff at them.  The increased pollution makes the lake toxic enough to eat through Green Day's barge, and they sink to their deaths.  Some time later, the Simpsons go to church.  Grampa, suddenly possessed, warns everyone inside of impending doom (especially for Marge); a 'twisted tail', a 'thousand eyes', being 'trapped forever', and something called 'epa'.  Homer takes Grampa outside wrapped up in a rug, but when Marge tries to confront the two of them over what just happened, Homer dismisses it and Grampa doesn't seem to be aware of what happened.

Later that day, Homer does some chores, including poorly fixing a sinkhole (by putting Maggie's sandbox over it), and working on the roof with Bart.  The two get into a dare contest, having fun despite Flanders' attempts to advise caution.  Meanwhile, Lisa goes around town to increase awareness of the lake's pollution.  After dealing with Milhouse's tomfoolery, she comes across a young boy just from Ireland, Colin, who has been going around town trying to raise awareness of things as well, and quickly becomes infatuated with him.  Marge continues to investigate Grampa's warning, as Homer and Bart's dare contest heats up.  Homer dares Bart to skateboard to Krusty Burger and back completely naked and, after some taunting, Bart agrees to do so, upsetting many.  On the way, he's chased by police and arrested, however they just handcuff the naked boy up at a nearby pole so they can go eat, letting Nelson haw-haw Bart to exhaustion for hours.  Homer finally comes to pick Bart up, but when confronted by police, Homer tells them that Bart acted on his own and not on a dare, devastating Bart, with the only comfort from Homer being that its only Bart's worst day "so far".

Bart gets a spare set of pants from Flanders, who is also at the Krusty Burger, but he's still upset at Homer who has now taken a liking to pig that's being featured in a commercial.  Homer adopts it to save it from being killed, and brings it home.  Its twisted tail horrifies Marge, who sees it as the first sign of Grampa's warning coming true.  Marge tries to get Homer to lose the pig, but fails.  Bart sees from outside how much attention Homer is giving the pig, but Flanders next door lends Bart an ear, and the two agree to go fishing.  At the lake, Bart takes a liking to Flanders' less 'aggressive' approach to parenting, while at the same time the lake continues to get polluted, and Lisa has enough.
Segment Score: 7.1

Next Twenty Minutes
Lisa convinces the town to clean up the lake after, in her usual sneaky fashion, sneaks some lake water into their drinks.  Nearly the entire town pitches in, and soon the lake is suitably clean.  A short time later, Homer is convinced by Marge to dispose of a silo full of the pig's (and his) waste.  He's waiting at a disposal factory, when he learns over the phone that the donut shop is being closed down, and giving away free donuts as a result.  Homer panics and, in a hurry, decides to dump the silo in the quickest, closest place he can find: Lake Springfield.  The silo has immediate effects on the lake: it becomes incredibly toxic (and evil), and Homer flees from the scene.  Nearby, a squirrel flees into the lake, only to come out as a multi-eyed abomination (or a thousand-eyed, as it were).  It gets quickly captured by the Environmental Protection Agency (you know, the "EPA").

At the White House, the head of the EPA, Russ Cargill, informs President Schwarzenegger about what's happened in Springfield, and gives the President several options, which he blindly chooses #3.  As a result, Springfield is sealed off with a gigantic dome intended to prevent the polluted lake from doing any harm outside of it.  Grampa's warning has come to fruition, much to Marge's worry.  Cargill appears on a screen within the dome to inform the town what's happened, and that Springfield is being taken off the map so that nobody else realizes what's going on.

That night, the pig crap silo is recovered, and the entire town learns that Homer is responsible for what's happened.  A furious mob, featuring pretty much everyone, advances on the Simpson house with the intent on taking Homer down (and the other Simpsons too, for some reason).  The family escapes (not before Marge retrieves her wedding video), but are impeded unwittingly by Homer's pig.  The town corner's them in the backyard, but Maggie reveals to everyone a secret: the sinkhole Homer 'patched up' with the sandbox leads outside the dome.  The entire family goes in, with Homer going last.  Once he goes in, the sinkhole widens, collapsing the ground the house is on, causing it to collapse and fall apart on top of the hole.  The Simpsons escape that calamity, but are now being hounded by the EPA - led by the now mad Cargill - so that news of what they did to Springfield doesn't leak out.
Segment Score: 7.7

Next Twenty Minutes

The entire family, especially the kids, now hate Homer for what's happened.  Still, Homer always figured he'd mess up so bad he'd need a back up plan, and a back up plan he has: take the entire family to live in Alaska.  Marge is hesitant, so much so she even seems willing to just give up.  However, Homer convinces her to go on the premise that once in every marriage, a person has to trust their partner on something no matter what.  Still, Bart points out the family has no money, but Homer is able to just barely win a truck by riding a motorcycle around a spherical cage, and the family is on their way.

As the Simpsons arrive in Alaska to start their new lives, Springfield descends to chaos.  Mr. Burns refuses to give the city power, and in desperation the city starts attacking the dome en masse.  Cargill notices a crack in the dome from the efforts, and 'advises' the President that allowing their escape could bring about investigations and tribunals.  Cargill 'advises' the worried President to blindly choose an option that will blow up Springfield.

Pre-emptively, a commercial airs featuring Tom Hanks, and advertising a new Grand Canyon where Springfield still is, a commercial that reaches Alaska.  Marge connects the dots, and realizes they have to back and warn and/or save the town.  However, Homer refuses to leave, recalling that the town almost killed them because of the whole dome thing.  After Bart taunts Homer over how Flanders is a better father, Marge decides to pull out the same speech Homer used on her to convince her to go to Alaska, but is now using to convince Homer to go back.  Homer isn't convinced, though, and still refuses to go back, leaving the house for awhile to cool off.

Upon returning, though, Homer finds that the family is gone, and Marge has left a tape for him to watch.  The tape shows Marge stating that the main reason why she and Homer are still together is because she's been able to overlook all of his errors, but she can no longer do that.  She and the kids are going back to Springfield, never to come back to Alaska, and to show she means that its the end, she videotaped the message over their wedding video.  Homer stumbles outside in sorrow, and passes out on a sheet of ice.  After the movie fakes out its audience, Homer is saved from a polar bear by a well-endowed shaman or something.  The shaman takes Homer on a spiritual quest, which is really just him getting hopped up on liquid goofball.
Segment Score: 6.5

Final Twenty Minutes

During the 'quest', Homer realizes that he is nothing without his friends and family, and that in order to save himself, he needs to save Springfield.  He comes to, thanks the 'boob lady', and runs off.  Meanwhile, the family tries to formulate a plan to help Springfield, but their conversation is heard by the government (a rather topical thing nowadays), and are captured by Cargill.

Homer struggles to get back to Springfield, but eventually does so, just in time to find his family within an EPA truck.  Homer's attempt to free them goes horribly wrong, and the next morning Marge and the kids are within Springfield, which has fallen to complete anarchy in the months since the dome first landed.  Cargill appears on the big screen to reveal his explosive plan, sending down a bomb, dangling on a wire, set to explode in 15 minutes.  Homer begins to climb the dome, using super glue on his hands to ascend the surface.  At the same time, the town decides to try and escape via the rope tied to the bomb, Cletus making the ultimate sacrifice in distracting Cargill.  As the townspeople get near the top, Homer slides on down, knocking everybody off and bringing down both the rope and the bomb, once again dooming the town.  As Homer has rocks and such thrown at him for yet another goof of his, Bart goes to church to find Flanders, who lets him spend his final moments with him.

Homer finds Marge and runs off to meet with her, but is stopped by a tree similar to that to the one he saw in his vision.  It somehow implies that Homer can toss the bomb out of the hole at the top of the dome, using a motorcycle to gain enough speed to reach the top.  Homer decides to do it, but stops to get Bart first, convincing him to come along by letting him hold the bomb.  Homer tries to realize that his poor parenting stems from how lousy a parent his father was, but there's no time to reflect and he and Bart are just barely able to throw the bomb through the hole.  It lands just on top of the dome, and explodes.  The dome begins to fall apart, eventually exploding into millions of crystals and/or shards, one of which kills Dr. Nick.  Homer and Bart defy odds by escaping, but Cargill is right there, ready to shoot them for foiling his plans, but is knocked out after a rock hits him in the head.  Who threw it?  Maggie, of course.

Lisa finds Colin, while Homer and Bart are now heralded as heroes.  Homer looks past them, though, and locates Marge, picking her up on the motorcycle and the two share the best kiss of their lives (so far).  Soon, the town goes to work rebuilding, including the lost Simpson home where Homer and Bart once again work on the roof with disastrous results.  During the credits, Burns laments his losses, and wants Smithers to commit suicide for amusement, and the Simpson family leave the theatre where they were watching this movie (right after the Itchy & Scratchy short, I'm sure).
Segment Score: 6.5

Movie Review

When I first saw this movie six years ago, I was thrilled.  After hearing who was involved in the project as well as the scale of the movie itself, I had hoped the movie would restore the series to its former glory, at least until the start of Season 19.  I remember enjoying the movie at the time, but felt as though there was something missing.  I wasn't quite sure at the time though.  It was still a good movie, but not as good as it could've been.

So here I am, six years later, watching it again after just enduring six painful seasons of Al Jean's zombie Simpsons run.  Seeing that people like Al Jean and Mike Scully (and that stupid collar-pulling gag that was frequent during his run) were involved, my expectations were tempered somewhat, and this time around I felt the movie met those lessened expectations.

Having Seasons 13-18 fresh in my mind, I've come to expect some things that just do no work, however given the scale of the movie you'd have to expect a grand storyline to make the process worth it.  Storylines like Lisa nagging everyone to clean the lake, or Homer and Marge separating again, and the massive anti-government message.  These things make for horrible episodes most of the time, and truth be told these did hamper my enjoyment of the movie a little bit, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been.

As the segment scores indicate, the movie is at its best early on with the varied antics of the Simpson family.  Most other characters, aside from Ned, didn't have much time in the sun aside from a catchphrase or two so their contributions to the movie's comedy were limited.  Having Arnold Schwarzenegger be the President was an odd move, but I enjoyed the parody of him (though he was basically a dumber Rainier Wolfcastle).  Russ Cargill, voiced by the wonderful Albert Brooks, was a fine character for the purpose he served.  However, the fan favorite of the movie, the Spider-Pig aka Harry Plopper, really didn't do much for me.  The pig's inclusion served a necessary plot point, but the few attempts to make the pig funny fell flat, I thought.

As the story got serious later in the movie, the attempts at comedy lessened.  There were more attempts at jokes at the government's expense, and I'm getting really tired of being reminded of that government while watching the show or its movie.  The movie got really good for a brief while as Homer attempts to save his family and get back into Springfield, but the grand scale of the moment lessened the quality and quantity of the humor.

So, in giving this movie one final score, its going to be a disappointing score.  I mean, its just slightly above the season averages given to Seasons 13-18, hurt by the movie's tendencies to go to the same level of comedy that those seasons provide.  Yeah, there were moments that the movie achieved really great moments, but that can be said for some of the newer episodes as well.  Here, six years after the movie first came out in theatres, I can say that the movie is really just an expanded episode that can be commonly found in Jean's lengthy, lengthy run.  It kind of hurts to admit that, but the score doesn't lie.  Its not as great of a movie as I, and many others, thought it was.

Final Score: 6.975

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