I am a Simpsons fan. I maintain that at it's height it was probably the most relevant and cutting television show in US history. There were always slapstick jokes (usually involving Homer causing himself unimaginable amounts of pain), but what made the show was it's willingness to challenge every viewpoint. what matters the most is that through Homer the makers of this show have been able to address our many prejudices and yet still keep people loving him. Homer has been openly xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and at times racist, but the joke always comes back onto him. The intelligent fans love him because he represents all elements of the average white (or yellow) westerner (good and bad).
Of course no show goes for 18 years without losing a level of originality. The Simpsons TV show is a shadow of its former self. It's been on a steady decline since Brad Bird left to become the genius behind several Pixar movies. It still has moments of genius (cue Fox News van driving past with 'Vote Bush/Cheney 2004' and the music 'We are the champions' playing - classic!), but they are so fleeting that the news of a movie did not exactly fill me with great hope. Like so many others I kept asking the question 'why didn't they make a movie 10 years ago?'.
However, despite my initial fears The Simpsons Movie is a marvelous success. It still lacks the freshness of a few years ago, and there are a few too many slapstick jokes, but at it's heart the movie does what very few big summer blockbusters ever manage to do. It lives up to the hype.
The central story is very silly, but still pays homage (or should that be homerage?) to a massive array of movies including An Inconvenient Truth, War of the Worlds, Titanic and The Truman Show. The jokes come so fast that a second viewing is actually essential and even when a joke doesn't work, it is followed up by another one that does.
If there is a downside, it's only that a movie like this cannot do justice to the hundreds of characters this Universe has created. Pretty much every characters gets on screen, but long time favourites like Mr Burns, Skinner and Moe deserve far more than one or two scenes. Mind you, if there isn't a sequel I would be surprised ;-)
And at the centre of everything is Homer. A man who is selfish, obnoxious and insensitive, yet remains the hero from start to finish. What is special about The Simpsons is that unlike most Hollywood movies, the hero isn't going to be improved by the the end, because that isn't the point. Homer always has some redemption, but he rarely learns his lesson which for me makes this movie more realistic than most films out this year. I often think the reason so many people hate The Simpsons is because people recognise that we all have a little bit of Homer in us!
If you don't like The Simpsons, don't go and see this movie, because if you haven't figured out what is funny about the show after 18 years, you sure as hell aren't gonna get this movie. If, like me, you are on the other side of the fence, get down to the cinema right now!