Best. Animated. Movie. Ever?
Not quite, Comic Book Guy, but the long-gestating and highly anticipated The Simpsons Movie does deliver a raucous feature-length venture that should satisfy faithful fans while still entertaining audience members who don't know Homer J. Simpson from a hole in the wall. By stretching a formula normally applied to a 22-minute episode, Simpsons lobs comically sacrilegious spitballs at an environmentally sensitive storyline that justifies its big-screen treatment. The humor stays irreverent without making the still-running sitcom irrelevant.
Flash back, momentarily, to "Lisa the Vegetarian," the fifth episode of the show's seventh season. Upon learning that his socially conscious daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith) plans to give up meat, shocked parent Homer (Dan Castellaneta) tries his best to understand her sacrifice.
Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?Lisa: No.Homer: Ham?Lisa: No Homer: Pork chops Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.
Homer's ignorance is equally pathetic and prophetic, as his "magical animal" ends up being the final nail in the festering coffin that is Springfield, the fictional town the Simpsons call home.
Trouble ensues when Homer adopts an orphaned pig, which isn't a major issue until he needs a place to dispose of the animal's waste. Small problems often balloon to epic proportions in the Simpsons world, and before long, the family has fled a contaminated -- and federally barricaded -- Springfield to seek refuge in the wilds of Alaska.
It's difficult to write fresh material for an army of characters who have existed in another medium for 18 seasons, and The Simpsons Movie recycles small elements that rabid followers recognize. Problem child Bart (Nancy Cartwright) once again considers joining the Flanders family, while Lisa finds love in fellow adolescent activist Colin (Maile Flanagan). It's all been done, but we don't mind doing it again.
A team of veteran Simpsons writers returned for the film project and their enthusiasm blankets the first act. The finest and fastest jokes gush in a furious torrent of supporting-character cameos, each bearing a stinging laugh line. Simpsons slows down as the plot advances, making room for Albert Brooks, voicing the maniacal head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Tom Hanks as himself. Inevitably, favorite characters are either relegated to quick sound bites (Dr. Nick) or erased completely (Sideshow Bob). Let's hope they're more prominently featured in a sequel that doesn't take another 18 years to produce.
I smell hot dogs.