Screenwriters: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer
Running time: 87 mins
After eighteen seasons and four hundred episodes telling the exploits of the world's favourite animated dysfunctional family, the Simpson clan has finally found its way onto the big screen. Lasting three times the length of a standard episode, fans of the show have been hoping for a 90 minute mirth-fest encapsulating everything that makes the show so beloved, to prove to the world just how good The Simpsons can be. However, while the result is undoubtedly a great way to spend an afternoon, those with such high expectations will be underwhelmed.
The basic premise of the movie is nothing new. Homer, for the sake of satisfying his doughnut-craving stomach that little bit faster, decides to dispose of a silo of his pet pig's waste into Lake Springfield, alienating his family in the process. The townsfolk aren't too happy with him either, as his actions lead to Springfield's quarantine in a giant dome, with a worse fate to follow. It's up to Homer to make good and clear up his mess for himself, the future of his family and his hometown.
Since the idea of a Simpsons movie was made known, the show's followers' worst fear was that the result wouldn't do it justice. With the project in the hands of eleven of the series' longest-serving scriptwriters, fans can rest assured that there's been nothing in the way of reinvention for the big screen. There's plenty of what endears it to so many – satire, slapstick, and a larger helping of emotional weight than usual. Where it falls down is in the throw-away comedy department. That's not to say that it doesn't keep a smile on your face almost constantly throughout or provide a number of laugh-out-loud moments; it does, but the proportion of jokes that fall flat just seems a little on the higher side than is comfortable. To be in a full cinema and hear Simpsons gags pass with little more than the odd polite chuckle is a most disconcerting feeling, particularly when you'd been expecting people rolling in the aisles.
The Simpsons can never have been accused of being particularly plot-driven, with the laughs always taking precedence. It would be unfair to say that the reverse is true for the movie, but there is certainly more of a narrative to speak of than in the series, which adds a new dimension and allows some plot development. It also allows character development, with each Simpson having his or her own themes, although, as might be expected, this is heaped on Homer rather disproportionately. Sub-plots involving Lisa’s love life and Bart’s need for a more considerate father seem like false starts.
Happily, the writers didn't feel the need to include all the minor characters for the sake of completion, though there would certainly have been time to do so and this would have added some more appeal to fans. Sure, ignore the Bumble-Bee Man as much as you want, but the likes of Mr Burns and Krusty surely deserve more than cameo appearances?
The animators have made the most of the new screen dimensions, putting the capabilities to good use in a handful of large-scale scenes which would never have been as impressive on the small screen. The animation has been altered to provide a more cinematic experience, but overall the same cartoony look remains.
As TV-to-film adaptations go, it’s far better than most, and at 87 minutes never outstays its welcome as much as, say, the South Park movie. In fact it leaves you wanting more. However, holding it up to the high standard set by the series (or at least its earlier days), it's just a shame that it's just a pretty good effort rather than a fantastic one from writers who just could have done that little bit better.