widescreen – Homers Odyssey: a barrel of laughs

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With super-duper hype and hullabaloo, The Simpsons Movie finally arrives in theaters, landing with a big comic kaboom! An extension of the popular 18-year-old television series, the movie manages what few TV-to-movie transfers accomplish: remaining true to its roots while expanding its scope to suit the demands of the big screen.

With no cumbersome backstory to weigh things down, Simpsons leaps right into the frantic brand of madness thats come to epitomize Americas favorite dysfunctional cartoon family.

Homer promptly stands up and grouses, I cant believe were paying for something we get to watch on television for free! This type of wink-wink, nudge-nudge joke acknowledges that we, the audience, dont have to be here, we want to be here. We crave The Simpsons much like Homer craves theater-floor popcorn.

The weekly episodes often pack more plot in 22 minutes than this 87-minute film. Still, its squiggly narrative is as far-flung as it is logical. Using summer blockbusters as its baseline, Simpsons skewers the big, booming action flicks churned out assembly-line style, like so many pink doughnuts. Mmmm … doughnuts.

The basic plot focuses on Homer, who, after adopting a pig and disposing of its poop illegally, puts Springfield in grave ecological peril to the point where the city is quarantined from the rest of the world.

Thats all Im telling because part of the joy of any Simpsons storyline is watching how it goes from Point A to Point Z. Theres a subplot involving Bart and neighbor Ned Flanders that hits an emotional note, and one involving Lisa that will likely be carried over into the shows upcoming season. But its really all about Homer, his idiocy, his selfishness, his insatiable hunger, his lovable doh-ness, and his ultimate redemption spurred by a speech delivered by his blue-haired wife, Marge.

Fans come for the jokes, and there are plenty to go around. While some are funnier than others, most hit the bulls-eye. And a select few achieve the equivalent of comic nirvana, including a gag involving naked skateboarding (probably what gave the film its PG-13 rating).

Most of the fan favorites are represented, like Comic Book Guy and Chief Wiggums, but a few characters are given the short-shrift, like Krusty the Clown, Mr. Burns, Apu and Principal Skinner (Marges sisters are completely MIA).

Clearly, creators Matt Groening and James L. Brooks realize they cant please all the fans all the time, so they dont worry about it. Whats there is there, whats not is not. Take it or leave it. And, trust me, youll take it. And be happy about it.
The look of the hand-drawn animation is ravishing. It remains true to its TV style, but is enhanced by more detailed, lushly colored backgrounds.

And the voice work is so finely honed by the cast of regulars that the acting conveys a timing and skill rarely encountered in even the best live-action comedies. The cast has elevated their vocal work to a craft that brings these icons to three-dimensional life, providing soul, spirit and connection with the audience.

This connection is what made The Simpsons endure all these years on TV, and its what makes the movie an instant classic. Just as you never tire of TV reruns, youll want to watch the movie again … and again … and again …

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