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The Simpsons Movie: Satisfying Enough

First and foremost, The Simpsons Movie is very funny. In many ways, it's a perfectly satisfying Simpsons adventure with plenty of gags to keep the laughs rolling on. Thus, as a major summer comedy, this movie is a success.

However, as a longtime fan of the TV show, I suppose I'd expected certain things that the movie did not ultimately deliver. Much of the enjoyment of this movie hinges upon surprise, so I won't reveal plot details or specific jokes here — though the great number of you who voted Lisa as your favorite Simpson will be very pleased: She has some of the greatest moments in the whole thing, in my opinion. The movie felt like a longer episode with a little more obscenity, but still basically an episode. To check out my thoughts on the good and the bad, as divided into "woo hoo!" and "d'oh!"

"Woo hoo!"
The cinematic aspect (bigger, grander, higher quality), for people who have been watching the show on their little TVs for 18 years, is genuinely thrilling. It seems obvious but it truly is the Simpsons, that beloved TV family, like you've never seen them before. Being in a packed theater is another thrill — though perhaps jarring at first. I'm used to chuckling alone or with a few people in the safety of my own living room. To be a part of a large crowd roaring with laughter is bizarre — and a lot of fun.

The filmmakers definitely took advantage of the fact that this is a PG-13 movie that people are paying to see. Or in other words, they can finally say and do things (profanity, nudity, stronger political satire) that you just know they've been chomping at the bit to do for many years. There's something exciting about seeing them break free a little, swearing and giving the middle finger (er, the middle of the characters' four fingers, anyway). You get the sense that this was a real relief for them, and so it is for the audience, too.

If nothing else, this is a super extended episode of "The Simpsons," so simply put, the more "Simpsons," the better.

For a show that so often veers into several random storylines, it actually feels like Groening and Friends played it safe with this movie, concentrating mostly on one big adventure for the Simpsons family. They had this whole entire movie to play with... but somehow it doesn't feel very playful.

Most of all, however, I wanted much more of Springfield and the Springfield residents I've grown to know so well over the years. I wanted more of the people — and places! — I love so much. Groundskeeper Willie gets basically no screen time, for example, and even Mr. Burns only has one short scene. In addition, there are no scenes inside the power plant at all, and even the Kwiki-Mart is nowhere to be found!

After all those promotional stunts (the Springfields of America competing for the chance to hold the premiere, the 7-11s turned into Kwiki-Marts, etc.), I definitely expected more specific Springfield jokes overall. Fans get into those stunts because we love Springfield and we want to be a part of that world. So it's strange that the movie actually takes us out of that world. And rather than seeing more of the characters we know and love, I think we actually see less of them.

In conclusion...
After waiting for 18 years to see this movie, it's probably going to be built up way too much as a matter of course. The fact remains that this was a wildly ambitious undertaking, and the result is a super fun movie-going experience.

Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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