We Review "The Simpsons Movie", Or, Bulbous Buffoon Boffo at Box Office

Author’s Notes: There will be no “spoilers” in this story.
The author is not associated with any part of the movie, and was not provided tickets or any other incentive.

Your friendly fake consultant is an openly admitted “Simpsons” geek.

Much to The Girlfriend’s chagrin, I can spend a ridiculous amount of time watching episodes of the show on DVD-and then watching them again, just for the commentaries (and many thanks to Conan O’Brien for participating in my favorite commentary ever).

For those not familiar (is that possible?) the Simpsons are a family from Springfield who have engaged in an exhausting variety of adventures over the past 20 years.

Homer has been an astronaut, a bootlegger, the manager of an outsourced Indian nuclear power plant, and was once required to run up both World Trade Center towers to use the restroom. His wife, Marge, was once Springfield’s only competent police officer.

The kids? Maggie turned out to be the role Elizabeth Taylor was born to play, and Bart was/will be impaled upon Lisa’s Pulitzer Prize one day in the past/future.

The neighbors? These three: super do-gooder Ned Flanders, Moe Szyslak (owner of Moe’s Tavern, and the victim of Bart’s crank calls), and Ted Kenned...sorry, Mayor Quimby (“It's time we face up to the unface-up-to-able”) are just the tip of the Springfield iceberg, and the opening montage of the show pans across a group of about 80 or so of them; which can be seen if you’re inclined to use the “single-frame advance” function of your DVD player to its best advantage.

Having introduced the players, let’s talk about the hype.

In other circumstances, a film will seek some marketing tie-ins, and the characters might even be associated with some products, in an effort to create more “name recognition” for the associated entities.

This is not without precedent, as the TV show’s producers also experimented with, and have actually released, a small number of character-related products over the years.

The Simpsons Movie tie-ins are neatly catalogued by Rohit Bhargava’s “Influential Marketing Blog”, and I heard they even ran a few TV ads to promote the movie, but that may just be a rumor.

Despite the underground and secretive nature of the movie’s release, your friendly fake consultant was able to locate a midnight screening of the film at Paul Allen’s Cinerama Theatre (super cushy chairs...mmmmmmmm) in Seattle on Thursday night/Friday morning.

All kidding aside, there were no obvious promotional efforts underway outside the event itself. No costumed Homer-headed individuals were to be seen; no, not even a Marge wig amongst the audience of 800 or so. The lobby was not decorated, no radio station was broadcasting live, and even the snack bar was operating sans doughnuts.

Nonetheless, the crowd was obviously in the mood, and it was clear they were ready to enjoy the movie-or to burn down the theatre if things should turn out badly.

As a complete “Simpsons” geek, I forced The Girlfriend not just to attend, but to sit right down front (4th row). She was not exactly amused, but she knows how bad I am, and she kindly went along to provide support.

So, does the movie stand up to the hype?

Very much so.

To put it another way, you absolutely do not see all the best parts in the commercials.

There are very few moments that are not funny; and there are many jokes that are funny in the way that “old school” cartoons are funny-jokes that are funny on different levels for kids, teenagers, and adults. One example is a Richard Nixon reference that older audience members found funny, but the small flock of 13 year-olds next to us did not.

In the commentaries that accompany the show’s DVDs, the “show runners” discuss the process of audience testing that is used to “tighten up” a show...basically a process of showing the existing version of the effort to test audiences, watching the reaction, removing the parts where no one laughs, and replacing it with something that does get the audience laughing.

This process was clearly used to great effect-I lost count, but at least 25 times I was laughing with surprise at something a Springfieldadinian (or whatever they’re called) was up to.

And the real test...the next day, The Girlfriend was spontaneously telling people how much she enjoyed the film-something I never expected.

The larger world seems to be enjoying the movie as well-it is reported that the film is grossing higher than predicted, and the most optimistic estimates suggest grosses could surpass the $70 million production cost before Monday.

Additionally, as with the best of the show’s episodes, there are so many inside jokes, frame-by-frame “click throughs”, and obscure movie references that DVD sales will be brisk-and I’m predicting here that a soundtrack-matching “Pink Doughnut” version of the DVD will be available for Christmas release.

To wrap it all up: having had a couple of days to let it sink in, I would heartily recommend the film for the most fervent of “Simpsons” geeks-and for humans, too! Find the largest screen you can, and if you let the kids watch the TV show, take ‘em along-they’ll hear a couple dirty words, and see one “naughty” visual image, but it’ll be OK.

And now for the official rating:

On a scale of $2.99 (if I found it somewhere, used) to retail, I would pay at least $12.99 for the DVD, and if it was in cool limited-edition packaging, I might even pay retail.

And that’s the same rating I would give “Sicko”, which means, for my money, these have been the best two films of the year so far.

Comments

A very cromulent review, FC.

My daughter and younger son have been calling each other back-and-forth for the last hour or so, most likely discussing ways to best trick me into taking them to a matinee today (matinees are my standing rule, because they're cheaper, less crowded and fewer show-offy flirty teenagers are around).

surprise 'em back...

...tell them you need to take them shopping for back to school supplies, and wham! there you are at the theater.

it really was funny, and if you attend in your silliest mood, all should be well.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

But don't you want an embiggened audience?

1 Thessalonians 5:21: But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.

I always wanted to be the avenging cowboy hero—that lone voice in the wilderness, fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth and justice. - Bill Hicks

Apparently, you're not the only one who wanted to see it.

According to Reuters,

Television's hapless underachievers, the Simpsons, were the top draw at movie theaters around the world in their big-screen debut, surpassing even the most optimistic forecasts.

"The Simpsons Movie" sold almost $168 million worth of tickets during its first weekend of release, distributor 20th Century Fox said on Sunday.

I loved it, too - laughed through most of it, and may go back to see it again, because I'm sure there's stuff I missed the first time.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

$170 million is a monster number...

...but i imagine it's inflated by the fact that it opened on 4000+ screens.

that said, i loved the film, and will be buying the dvd, which is presumably music to murdoch's ears.

but i don't care...and i very much look forward to the commentaries when the dvd is released-as i do for the individual seasons as well.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

It's a world wide number.

The state-side number is something like $72 million. But according to the article, Fox was only expecting $40 million in the states, so it's still a monster number.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

mark cuban's...

...2929 entertainment has been releasing films into theater, pay-per-view and dvd all on the same day (or as close as possible), and it would be fascinating to see what numbers this film would have garnered in that environment.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965