Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Marcia Wallace, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Joe Mantegna, Albert Brooks
James L. Brooks (and developer), Matt Groening (and creator), Sam Simon (developer), Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, George Meyer, David Mirkin, Mike Reiss, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, John Swartzwelder, Jon Vitti
See our family. And feel better about yours.
Is this the end for Springfield? Homer (voice of Dan Castellaneta) must save his beloved hometown from a total idiot, i.e., himself, who has doomed it to destruction.
$74.036 million on 3922 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 86 min.
Release Date: 12/18/2007
• Audio Commentary with Director David Silverman, Co-Writers/Co-Producers Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, and Mike Scully and Actors Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith
• Audio Commentary with Director David Silverman and Sequence Directors Mike B. Anderson, Steven Dean Moore and Rich Moore
• Deleted Scenes
• “Special Stuff”
• Easter Eggs
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 30, 2007)
After years and years of discussion, The Simpsons Movie finally hit movie screens in the summer of 2007 – about 10 years too late, I thought. While the series still earns good ratings, it doesn’t seem to have the same charge and draw that it boasted back in its glory years.
So I really figured that The Simpsons Movie would tank at the box office. If long-time fans like me couldn’t even be bothered to watch the broadcast episodes anymore, why would we – or many others – bother to shell out $10 to see a Simpsons feature film?
Once again, my prognostication skills proved mistaken. Remember that I’m the guy who thought The Passion of the Christ would earn about $20 million, so I have a track record of bad box office predictions. I figured Simpsons Movie would do better than $20 million, but I certainly didn’t expect the flick’s stellar $182 million take. That was absolutely remarkable and a figure that certainly exceeded anyone's expectations, not just my low-ball numbers.
Whether or not Simpsons delivers comedy to compare favorably with the series’ best work remains to be seen, however. When the pollution level in Springfield reaches a critical level, the local authorities prohibit trash dumps in the local lake. Desperate to get to a donut giveaway, Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) ignores the ban and drops a silo of pig crap – really – in the water.
Not good. This literally turns the lake toxic, and when a mutated squirrel emerges from the setting, alarms go off in Washington. EPA chief Russ Cargill (A. Brooks) convinces President Schwarzenegger (Harry Shearer) to let him to cut off Springfield from the rest of the world via a dome that encases the city.
This doesn’t sit well with the citizens of Springfield, and when they seek a scapegoat, the Simpsons bear the obvious brunt of their anger. Thanks to a helpful sinkhole in the yard, however, they’re able to escape to the outside. They flee to start a new life in Alaska and all seems to be reasonably well.
Until Marge (Julie Kavner) learns that the government now plans to completely eradicate all traces of Springfield. They’ll drop a bomb in the dome to create a new Grand Canyon. Marge wants to attempt to prevent this, but a bitter – and lazy – Homer prefers the status quo. The rest of the movie follows this basic thread.
When I went into my theatrical screening of Simpsons, I left disappointed, and I wondered if expectations affected that feeling. As I mentioned earlier, when I first heard of Simpsons, I figured it would tank and it probably wouldn’t be very memorable. However, after it received glowing reviews and turned into a smash, I thought my assumptions may have been off base. When my friend Kevin saw it and really liked it, my expectations rose even higher; Kevin and I go back just as far with The Simpsons and tend to agree on its highs and lows.
So I saw the flick theatrically and felt distinctly underwhelmed. I enjoyed the experience but would have rated it on the level of “pleasant diversion” at best. That’s fine for some flavor-of-the-month CG effort from DreamWorks, but I want a lot more from a series with the level of quality once boasted by The Simpsons, arguably the funniest comedy ever to hit the airwaves.
If I saw Simpsons a second time and altered my opinion, that wouldn’t be a remarkable event. It’s not at all unusual for me to better appreciate a highly anticipated flick when I can give it a second assessment.
Unfortunately, my thoughts about Simpsons remain exactly the same. It provides a reasonably entertaining affair and that’s about it. It compares to an average episode of the series, probably on a par with what you’d see in the declining years such as Season 10. We get some amusing material and it keeps us interested, but it never remotely approaches the level of divine inspiration that made the show’s best seasons so good.
Speaking of DreamWorks – as I did a couple paragraphs back – I happened to see Bee Movie only a few days before I rewatched Simpsons. In many ways, I regard Bee as being an almost opposite image of Simpsons. If nothing else, I must give Simpsons credit for the tightness of its story. It goes off on some tangents, of course, but it follows a pretty concise through-line as it tells its tale. I like the fact it avoids secondary distractions and stays on target.
Bee, on the other hand, was a mess. It packed in a number of different threads and mixed them together in a sloppy, messy manner. It offered one of the least coherent stories I’ve seen, as it never quite knew where it wanted to go. Indeed, it often felt like a few short episodes tied together without much logic.
But at least it was funny. I’m not an easy laugh, but Bee brought out quite a few chortles along the way. When I left the theater, I felt like I’d been thoroughly entertained. The messiness of the plotting bothered the critic in me, but at least I went home with a smile on my face the feeling I’d gotten some good amusement along the way.
I can’t say the same for Simpsons. Oh, don’t take that to me I find no entertainment here. As I mentioned earlier, the film offers a pleasant experience and remains consistently interesting.
It just doesn’t provoke the kind of serious laughs I want from The Simpsons. Did I chuckle? Yup, but that’s not enough. I wanted to really let loose with the kind of full-blown guffaws that I get from the series’ best material, and they never came. Moderate amusement was my most extreme reaction to this enjoyable but uninspired effort.
Maybe after almost 20 years, “enjoyable but uninspired” is the best we can expect from The Simpsons. If I got this level of entertainment for a Season 19 episode, I’d probably be pretty happy. However, the move to the big screen clearly upped the ante, and Movie just doesn’t deliver.
Footnote: be sure to watch through the end credits, as a bunch of little tidbits emerge.
The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B
The Simpsons Movie appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. From start to finish, the flick looked great.
Sharpness seemed immaculate. If any soft spots materialized, I didn’t see them, as I thought the film was concise and distinctive at all times. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. Source flaws also failed to occur, as the movie was consistently clean and fresh.
With a bright, varied palette, the colors of Simpsons looked terrific. The movie showed vibrant tones at all times and really leapt to life. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. I found myself very pleased with this exceedingly satisfying transfer.
Although the audio of The Simpsons Movie wasn’t quite so stunning, the soundtracks worked well. For this DVD, we got both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. I thought the pair seemed quite similar. If one boasted strengths absent from the other, I didn’t notice them.
Both tracks definitely expanded on the limited audio heard during TV episodes. The soundfields got the biggest bumps. We heard environments that broadened the settings to a satisfying degree, especially during the smattering of action scenes. The opening Itchy and Scratchy cartoon launched things with a bang – literally – and a few sequences such as the explosive climax managed to bring real breadth to the proceedings.
Since this was The Simpsons, though, you shouldn’t expect a ton of these scenes. Instead, general atmosphere ruled the day, with nice environmental information throughout the film. Music showed good stereo imaging and the whole flick presented a solid sense of place.
Audio quality always worked well. Speech was natural and crisp, with no edginess or other issues. Music sounded bouncy and bright, while effects demonstrated fine delineation. Those elements seemed tight and accurate, and they displayed very nice bass response when appropriate. The occasional loud bit managed to show impressive low-end material. While I wouldn’t call this a dazzling auditory experience, Simpsons was good enough for a “B+”.
In terms of extras, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director David Silverman, co-writers-/co-producers Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, and Mike Scully, and actors Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith. All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific track, though Smith doesn’t join until about 18 minutes into the chat. They discuss story, script and joke issues, guest cast and performances, character design, test screenings and ratings concerns, music, editing and cut/altered scenes, technical issues, and a few other elements.
With all those participants, you’d hope to get a lot of good information, and the commentary delivers. It fills its running time with many useful notes, and for once, the actors provide more than a few of those. During the TV commentaries, the voice actors usually don’t say much. While that proves true a lot of the time here, we do finally get some good thoughts from them about what it’s like to work in the animation medium and aspects of their craft. Smith and Castellaneta offer true insight when they speak. Add those moments to many other solid tidbits and this becomes a worthwhile discussion.
Note that unlike a typical commentary, this one occasionally pauses the action. The participants do so to allow for additional discussion of various elements. This means that the 86-minute flick becomes a 101-minute commentary. No such pausing occurs during the second track, though.
For the second commentary, we hear from director David Silverman and sequence directors Mike B. Anderson, Steven Dean Moore and Rich Moore. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific piece. They look at various technical issues as well as the challenges of a movie versus the TV show, changes that came with the project as it went, and some story topics.
Without question the biggest problem with this commentary comes from all the happy talk. From start to finish, we get far too many remarks about how the participants love this or that. It gets old pretty quickly and means we learn less about the film than I’d like. There’s still some good content here, and it’s enough to keep us involved, but I’d prefer more meat and less praise.
Six deleted scenes fill a total of five minutes, 14 seconds. (That total also includes a 23-second introduction from Al Jean.) We find “Levels” (1:44), “Springfield News” (0:39), “DMV” (0:45), “Sausage Truck” (0:37), “Emperor Moe” (0:24) and “Slightly Alternate Ending” (0:41). “Levels” shows Russ Cargill’s attempts to clarify a simple point to the president, while “News” and “DMV” depict the effects of dome isolation. “DMV” also gives us an appearance from Patty and Selma, both of whom go oddly absent from the final flick.
“Truck” offers an obvious gag connected to Homer’s attempts to return to Springfield, and “Emperor” extends the scene when Marge runs into Moe. “Ending” indeed simply provides a slightly different version of the existing conclusion. Of all these, only “DMV” and perhaps “Emperor” would have worked in the end result. The others seem very disposable, though at least “Levels” lets us seen an alternate character design for Cargill.
Under Special Stuff, we find four elements. We discover “Homer’s Monologue on The Tonight Show (1:35), “The Simpsons Judge American Idol” (0:58), “Homer Introduces American Idol” (0:34) and “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” (0:20). All of these existed to promote the film, and they’re fun to see. “Judge” stands as the most entertaining of the bunch.
Within A Lot of Trailers, we get… a lot of trailers. Five of them, to be precise, as the section presents “Announcement Trailer” (March 2006 – 0:28), “Bunny Trailer 1” (11/06 – 1:24), “Bunny Trailer 2” (11/06 – 1:05), “The Line/Teaser Trailer” (2/07 – 2:16) and “Theatrical Trailer” (6/07 – 1:49). “Announcement” is the best of the bunch, though all have their moments.
A few ads open the disc. We get promos for The Simpsons, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Futurama: Bender’s Big Score.
The set also includes some Easter eggs. When you access the – “Deleted Scenes”, “Special Stuff” and “A Lot of Trailers” – click up until you highlight each section’s title. Hit enter to see “Visual Development” galleries for a variety of new characters like Lisa’s boyfriend, Russ Cargill and Multi-Eyed Creature.
If fans expect a real laughfest from The Simpsons Movie, they’ll probably encounter disappointment. While amusing and enjoyable, the film never quite delivers the level of cleverness and wit we want. It feels like a slightly above average episode and nothing more. The DVD gives us excellent picture, very nice audio and a pretty decent roster of extras. Though the movie doesn’t live up to the best of The Simpsons, it’s good enough to earn a moderate recommendation.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars|| Number of Votes: 28|