Chances are if you are reading this paper, you grew up on the The Simpsons. For the past 17 years, the show has completely and totally changed the pop culture landscape—from the way we look at animation, sitcoms, and television to the way our country deals with the classic family dynamic, humor, and politics. (Not mention the addition of the expression "D'oh" into our generation's lexicon.)
But as any fan worth his weight in Squishees knows, the series has been in a holding pattern for nearly a decade. Sunday nights are no longer dominated by The Simpsons' presence, and while it hasn't fallen off completely, its finest days are long past. So the only question about The Simpsons Movie is: What took so damn long?
Unfortunately, the film doesn't have an answer for that one. Instead, The Simpsons Movie is the equivalent of one really long episode—87 minutes long, to be exact—and while it's not horrible by any means, it's far from the quality of the landmark early years of the series. Longtime producer David Silverman, who's been with the show since the Tracy Ullman days, directs the film, doing everything in his power to keep it close to the standard Simpsons template: Homer gets hurt by things, Bart is bad, Lisa is a know-it-all, Marge worries, and Nelson says "Ha-ha." The end, roll credits.
The loose-knit plot revolves around Springfield Lake, which is on the cusp of becoming a complete environmental disaster should just one more bit of litter be added to its waters. Cue Homer, who does just that, setting off a chain of marginally funny events and introducing the film's best character, Environmental Protection Agency head Russ Vargill (voiced by Albert Brooks, with his best Simpsons work this side of Hank Scorpio), who aims to destroy Springfield and all of its inhabitants. Yes, even Lenny and Carl.
From there, familiar wackiness ensues, and the film fails to take any risks or do anything substantial in order to justify the cost of a ticket. (Sure, the slick animation is as "big budget" as a cartoon can get, but looks have never been The Simpsons' selling point.) The film's better moments are when it pushes the boundaries of its PG-13 rating, giving the audience a little more than the usual Sunday evening fare: Homer flips off a rioting mob, there's a hilarious full-frontal shot of Bart (most likely the reason the film isn't just PG), and Otto the Bus Driver finally gets to toke up in public.
From its onset, it's clear that The Simpsons Movie isn't really necessary. And while it's entertaining enough, the film leaves us longtime fans—those of us who still quote lines from the series, or, even worse, still have cassette singles of "Do the Bartman"—wishing that the movie was made in the early '90s. You know, back when the show was truly, singularly great.