HomeContact MeWho Am I?More Reviews

The Simpsons – From Small Screen to Big Screen in a Nearly Seamless Jump


By Robert Garver


            Homer. Marge. Bart. Lisa. Maggie.  More children can name these five names than the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.  They are the five members of the Simpson family.  Their animated TV show has dominated the airwaves since 1989.  And they are finally making the jump to the big screen. 


         Credit goes to the filmmakers for even taking on such a monumental task.  On one hand, the fans of the show want them to push the envelope, and will settle for nothing less.  Making a 90-minute episode alone will not suffice.  On the other, the fans insist that the movie retain the magic that makes the show so endearing.  This creates a difficult balancing act, especially since the charm of the show is so simple:  a dysfunctional family and their wacky adventures.


            The plot is both epic and typical.  Homer’s bumbling and laziness causes Lake Springfield to become polluted.  The government decides that the whole town needs to be quarantined, and thus covers it in an enormous dome.  This isolates the townspeople and drives them crazy.  When they find out Homer is responsible, they form a mob and try to kill Our Favorite Family.  They escape and follow Homer to Alaska, which they enjoy until it becomes apparent that Springfield has even bigger things to worry about than the dome.  The dome aspect is the kind of gigantic twist you don’t want to give away on free TV, but the entire town has turned against Homer many a time already. 


         As with the show the Simpson family is the main attraction, but the rest of Springfield is ripe with priceless supporting characters.  There’s Chief Wiggum the incompetent police captain, Moe the shady bartender, Barney the town drunk, Cletus the yokel who lowers the IQ of anyone he talks to, Krusty the children’s clown who sells out at the drop of a dime, Nelson the school bully who laughs at less fortunate children, a sea captain who puts an unnecessary nautical spin on everything, and too many more to list.  Just about all of these characters have their own idea for how to capture Homer or destroy the dome, each one funnier and less successful than the last. 

However, there is a drawback to these scenes as the filmmakers clearly wanted to fit in as many secondary characters as possible.  This means that no one really connects with the audience on the level that they should.  This is as opposed to the show where an entire episode can center around the family’s interaction with a single supporting player.  Only Ned Flanders, the religious and tolerant nest door neighbor, makes the kind of impact he should in a subplot about Bart wanting to find a father figure other than the selfish and oafish Homer. 

The door to opportunities for character development may be closed, but the movie format opens a creative window:  vulgarity.  The show was seen as shocking in its first few years in the early 90s, but those days are passed.  It has always hovered around the PG mark, (people were only shocked in the early days because there were so few blue cartoons around) mainly so it can stay in the family-friendly 8:00 time slot.  But the movie is PG-13, so the writers can play around a little with naughtiness.  There are several words and gestures that they could not get away with using on the show, as well as a scene where Bart skateboards through town naked (and his more intimate parts are visible for a split second).

The jump from the small screen to the big screen is a good one for The Simpsons.  Longtime fans of the show will be pleased that so many cornerstones are included.  People who have never seen the show will appreciate that it isn’t too crowded and easy to digest.  Whatever your familiarity with the show, The Simpsons Movie should make for a funny, pleasant ride. 


Robert Garver is a guest columnist who lives in Palmyra.  He is a junior in the Cinema Studies department at New York University.  He spends his weekends working at the Cinema Center of Palmyra so he can be closer to the movies.