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Wednesday, July 25, 2007 06:04 am

Homer finds redemption, again

Funny, but it doesn’t look like Vermont

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The Simpsons Movie Rated PG-13 Running time 1:27 ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Untitled Document After 18 years of The Simpsons on television, there are two questions about The Simpsons Movie: Why now, and why pay to see it? I’m going to make this real easy for you: Homer gets to flip the bird, Marge finally gets to curse, and Bart skateboards naked through town. Line up, throw down your eight bucks, and enjoy.
Obviously there has to be much more than these three fleeting moments to recommend this movie, and Matt Groening, James Brooks, and crew rise to the occasion. They’ve fashioned a film that’s far more entertaining, timely, and thoughtful than most of the mindless tripe that’s cranked out in Tinseltown. Bureaucracy, video games, rampant consumerism, clueless filmgoers, video piracy, fast food, activism, the Disney Corp., organized religion, and those who would espouse intelligent design all take it on the chin as Homer and his crew find not only their family dynamic but also their hometown of Springfield facing extinction. Although fans of the show could probably find many of the film’s plotlines covered in one form or another over the course of the program’s 400 episodes, there’s a degree of freshness to the film’s story and a sense of enthusiasm in the writing. In a nutshell, Lisa finds love with the new kid in town, an Irish environmentalist named Colin who helps her lead a campaign to clean up Lake Springfield. Surprisingly, they’re successful in their attempt, but this event goes right over her father’s head because Homer is far too preoccupied with his new pet pig, which has left Bart feeling shunned. While the neglected tyke is spending time with too-good-to-be-true neighbor Ned Flanders, Homer is wrestling with what to do with the silo of pig manure he’s collected in his back yard. Of course, he takes the most expedient path, which is to dump it in Lake Springfield, causing a major environmental incident that results in the town’s being sealed off under a giant plastic dome by the government. Needless to say, this sets up a chain reaction of events that can only happen in the Simpsons’ universe. Everyone’s favorite yellow family manages to escape the dome, and Homer finds that he must not only clear his name and save his hometown but also win back the love and trust of his family. As the Simpsons sojourn to the promised land of Alaska and back, Groening and company do their best to shoehorn in every significant character from the show while delivering the sharp-edged satire that is the program’s bread and butter. For the most part, they succeed; the film survives a slow second act and the film garners laughs by floating intelligent postmodern satire (note the advertising crawl for Fox TV in the movie theater), as well as some of the dumber jokes you’re bound to hear this year (Homer comes up with a new tune — “Spider-Pig” — that is priceless in its inanity.)
In a world in which the United States is led by President Arnold Schwarzenegger (“I was elected to lead, not to read.”) and Tom Hanks ends up as a government sell-out, it should come as no surprise that the fate of Springfield, U.S.A., depends on an overweight middle-aged man’s performance of a death-defying motorcycle stunt.
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