27 July 2007

Review: The Simspons Movie

Genre: Comedy (Animated)

I am a long time fan of The Simpsons, a show that, regardless of what other people have said of it, I've always found to be endlessly smart and creative, a show of which I've always been able to find in each episode at least one redeeming quality, strength, or reason, to praise it. And, with this long anticipated feature-length film, I was sure that I'd be able to count on, not just one, but many such qualities, for (one would think) a project of such magnitude would, not only engender the want to present the strongest and best parts of the genius - yes, genius - that has endured the series for 18 years, but also and moreover actually pull through and deliver such a want in the most dedicated fashion possible. I was expecting triumph and deep-burning glow, but I was sorrowfully disappointed.
The approximately hour-and-a-half film seemed to merely sprawl on, in that completely eclectic, anarchic style that, while wonderful and more than appropriate as the motivation for the first twenty minutes, ceased to be so afterwards. It never gained secure footing, never lost its acclimatizing desultory playfulness that was its (necessary) start, to form a fully functional, thoughtful, and strong plot structure. The character arc that did occur felt only contrived, simply grafted on for the purpose of giving the writers and other contributive filmmakers license to continue spouting out (increasingly less witty) jokes in an "anything goes" style. And I do mean "anything goes," because the jokes rebelliously cut against their usual PG-TV limitations and often opted for the more forthright crudeness, seemingly just because they could. But what they (i. e., the filmmakers) have failed to recognize is that such limitations, holding back from the plunge, a flirtatious design is exactly what has made their art so clever and appealing; that, like undergarments for sex appeal, baring everything can easily diminish attractiveness; and that good storytelling and keen structure, though each a thing that (I'm guessing) the majority of their fan base cannot accurately recognize, are definitely some things that are acutely and unwittingly vital to quality, meaningful, significant fictions. Now do not, please, misunderstand me: I am all for an organic approach to creativity, all for letting things rise as they may as one goes along, all for the constructive stream of consciousness; but at the same time I know that raw passion, raw product without refinement, is practically never a piece that is also coherent, cohesive, and tight as a collective work, never - the bottom line - worthy of presentation as my end product (i. e., my best). And, needless to say, it saddened me then, to see such truly and earnestly good groundwork on the story, on the structure, and on the tenor of the film let be presented apparently just as it arose, without consideration of how its goodness could have been sharpened and/or its imperfections smoothened out. (As a fan, I also would have been more happy to see more beloved characters take the stage; Apu, Mr. Burns, and those delightful aliens [among others] were missed.)
Importantly, however, despite my misgivings, I have not turned and am not planning on turning my back on The Simpsons enterprise altogether; despite my disappointments, I shall still continue, respecting and enjoying the already classic series' unique blend of clever clarity as often and as well as I can. Also, despite my misgivings, I did not fail to find one or two redeeming qualities in the film: the framing and the skill of the animation that went into the work were favorable and clean and the musical score for the work - despite my unfulfilled preference for the original composer's, the talented Mr. Elfman's, return - was quite enjoyable and even generally noteworthy. (Green Day's cover of the famous theme was as well.)
Yet, I remain resolute in my judgement of this work, as it must receive it: grand ambitions too often fallen flat, persistent charm overruled by excessive brashnesses, and just a general dearth of that so near and dear Simpsons magic (i. e., that unmistakable ability to consistently engage complex American metaphysics with thoughtful irreverence, infectious aplomb, and an everyman's facility). So, to those of you who have yet to see it, enjoy the first twenty minutes; it just fails to glow afterwards.

Grade: B-

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