Man, there are few things in life that you can
be as certain about as the content of The Simpsons Movie.
You know Bart will be a smart ass, Homer will be stupid, Marge
will stand by him, Lisa will be sort of boring and have the
lamest storyline, Milhouse will be pathetic, Ralph Wiggum will
say something stupid, Montgomery Burns will be incredibly cruel,
Apu will be naive, Moe will be a dirtbag, Lenny or Carl will
get his feelings hurt, Comic Book Guy will profess his love
of dork culture, Smithers will love Burns, Ned Flanders will
take abuse with a thumbs up, Patty and Selma will undermine
Homer, Chief Wiggum will let a criminal get away, Principal
Skinner will have a rod up his ass, Edna Krabappel will be wild
at heart, Itchy will do something brutally cruel to Scratchy,
Scratchy will take it, Nelson will mock someone, Mayor Joe Quimby
will be corrupt, Krusty the Clown will have disregard for children,
Fat Tony will do something criminal, Dr. Marvin Monroe and Bleeding
Gums Murphy will remain dead and Maggie won't say a damn thing.
You know what, though? That's fucking A-OK with
me. All that shit, even the hundredth variation on it is still
funnier than seeing your own grandmother take a header into
a shark tank. Funnier even than if she were dead when it happened.
There are a shitload of the TV show's writers involved in The
Simpsons Movie, and every fucking one of them is talented
at telling jokes. I mean, insanely talented. They have the holy
grail of Tv jobs for people who actually are funny. Writing
plots? Eh, not they're so good at that. But writing the God
damn funniest jokes, retelling the same themes in new and funny
ways, and avoiding the pitfalls of cliche and hackery are their
strengths. David Byrne once said there are a finite number of
jokes in the universe. The idea of that scared the shit out
of me when I first read it, thought about it and decided that,
well, he's David Byrne, so he's probably being clever and right
at the same time. I worried there was a space race on to see
who could grab the most jokes before the last one was told.
It would probably be a five-year-old saying "Butt. Wiener."
to his three-year-old brother, causing the child to fall out
of his chair in hysterics and split his lip on the kitchen floor,
thereby forgetting the very last original joke ever told.
To some degree, it's true that there are only
so many jokes you can tell before you start repeating yourself.
That makes the achievement of the Simpsons even more
spectacular, and makes every season, or this movie, that much
harder to write.
Of course, most people don't give a cat's ripe
ass whether all the original jokes are gone. They would rather
keep saying "No soup for you!" and "Isn't that special?"
because they've gotten lost. They long ago forgot that jokes
are supposed to be new, enlightening, disarming and surprising
by virtue of context, juxtaposition, phrasing, timing and/or
audacity. Most people use jokes like old, frayed blankets to
wrap around themselves because they feel familiar and secure.
That's not what jokes are for. That's what old, frayed blankets
are for. So, stop repeating shit that, at best, earns you an
uncomfortable snort, or a ha-ha from some weird Canadian who
has absolutely no sense of humor, but does have an acute sense
of knowing when he is supposed to laugh.
The eleventy-million writers who put together
The Simpsons Movie know what a joke is supposed to be.
They're merciless in their ability to gnaw away all the fat,
blood and flesh to expose the comedic bones of a situation.
Which is precisely what they do here, using old themes to make
new jokes. Holy crap, after doing this column for ten years,
and generally failing, I can only admire writers who have been
doing the same thing for 18 years and still find new ways.
The plot is beside the point, but it's pretty
weak. Homer falls for a pig who he believes shouldn't be killed
since he's wearing human clothes. Through his own poor judgment
and impatience, he dumps the pig's waste into the already polluted
Lake Springfield, causing a near catastrophic meltdown. The
federal government then decides to place the town within a secure
dome and pretend it doesn't exist.
As the town residents go mad, they want to kill
Homer for putting them in the predicament. Homer and family
escape to Alaska, only to learn that the government's ultimate
plan is to blow up Springfield. Homer and family must return
to save the town.
That's pretty much it. There are subplots of
Lisa falling for an Irish environmentalist kid, and Bart wishing
he lived with the Flanders, especially after Ned makes him luxurious
hot cocoa. Like I said, though, all of that is pretense to tell
The Simpsons Movie doesn't elevate the
caliber of the jokes over some of the best TV episodes. How
could it? It's essentially at the quality of a good episode
from Season 3 or 4. Not a great episode, like Kamp Krusty.
Still, that means it's really fucking funny, and for almost
an hour-and-a-half. Four Fingers.