Simpsons Movie, The (2007)

Rated: PG-13
Grade: ACCB—B
Budget: $73 million
Box Office: $183 million US, $343 million int’l, $73 million DVD

Directed by: David Silverman, who has made 23 Simpsons episodes as well as Monsters, Inc. and The Road to El Dorado. The key, however, is that it’s written by Matt Groening and James L. Brooks.
Starring: The voices of Dan Castallaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, with guest voices including Albert Brooks, Joe Mantegna, and Tom Hanks.

Lake Springfield is dangerously polluted, and the EPA cordons it off. Homer dumps a pile of Spider-Pig’s feces (don’t ask) in it and brings the wrath of the EPA down on the town with a giant glass dome isolating them from the world. When things go bad, the town seeks to lynch Homer, but they escape to Alaska and then must decide whether to return when the EPA further decides to destroy the entire town. Oh, yeah, and Flanders pseudo-adopts Bart.
Entertainment Value: A Hilarious. We don’t normally watch The Simpsons, but this almost makes me want to take it up again. And it wasn’t just funny, but it was quotable funny as well. Not having watched the cartoon in several years, I had forgotten just how clever Groening and Brooks can be. However, here’s the rule you should use on everything in this review: judge your expectations of this movie by the TV show. If you’ve never watched it, well, I wouldn’t start doing so with this movie now.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sexuality C, Violence D, Language B, Illegality B
Just for instance: Bart skateboards through town nude but covered until the very last moment. Woodland creatures help Homer and Marge prepare for a night of marital bliss. Two cops kiss and go into a room together. Bart gets strangled a lot. A lynch mob threatens to kill the Simpsons. Springfield degenerates into chaos. Itchy and Scratchy do their violent thing. People say moderate swears a lot. Like I said, it’s 90 minutes of the TV show.

Significant Content: C

You can’t really have what you want in life until you help other people. Women are smart, men are blundering ignoramuses…except for Flanders. Christians are ready to help and have a positive example to give. I know that it’s hard to see this as a Simpson’s message, but it really is the lesson you’d draw from this movie in isolation from the show. The EPA is a modern-day Gestapo, and Austrian-born governors wouldn’t make competent Presidents. Wisdom is listening to women and doing what they say. Women feel loved by being listened to.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
For what it is, the Simpsons is fantastic art. By poking fun at things that deserve being poked, it’s much more significant as a social commentary than shows which merely crack jokes as most sit-coms and knock-off adult cartoons do. There’s a reason the Simpsons have been on the air for 19 years (only 60 Minutes has been in prime time longer).

Discussion Questions:
~Although the movie clearly is mocking the environmental movement, Homer actually does great damage by his pollution and Lisa (the social conscience of The Simpsons) is an environmentalist. Which “side” do you think this movie is on when it comes to the environment?
~Because it is a chaotic comedy-driven satire, The Simpsons doesn’t actually have to represent a coherent set of ideas. In terms of significant content, then, how would you evaluate something like this? What do you think of the assertion that the primary value in our media culture is to be funny and the only sin is to be boring? What does this do for rigor of thought? Can you think of any other shows that might fit this description? What of the idea that the references and satire are actually mentally stimulating? If H.L. Mencken were writing today, would he produce editorials or adult cartoons?
~What do you think of Bart’s interactions with Flanders? Why do you think this movie portrayed Flanders so positively? Which father would Bart choose if he were given the choice? What advantages and drawbacks are there to each man as a father? Given that no one who watches this show wants to emulate Homer, is The Simpsons useful as a warning to mediocre dads? Compare that with the impact of Bart as an icon to grade-school aged boys.
~Discuss how fairly Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa represent their demographic in American society at large. What conclusions can you draw about the acceptability of criticizing men as opposed to women?
~Evaluate the idea that men need women to stabilize them and give them a reason to be their better selves. How does it fit this movie?
Overall Grade: B As I said at the beginning, it was very entertaining and exceeded my expectations since we haven’t been watching the show for several years now. If the TV show offends you, this will, too.

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