Genre: Big-screen version of small-screen cartoon
The pitch: Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) and his family flee to Alaska after he accidentally causes an environmental catastrophe in Springfield.
Money shots: Nuclear war in the introductory "Itchy and Scratchy" short. Practically any appearance of Homer's new pet pig. The entire house collapses into a sinkhole. Homer and Bart's exciting motorcycle chase at the finale, which includes a referential jump of Springfield Gorge. I won't spoil the parody of Grand Theft Auto, but it's hilarious.
Cameos: I will spoil the big celebrity voice role: Tom Hanks. There, I said it. Reportedly Minnie Driver and Erin Brockovich ended up on the cutting-room floor. Instead of looking for celebrities, it's much more fun to play spot-your-favorite-obscure-recurring-characters: Bumblebee Man! Professor Frink! Crazy Cat Lady! But where are Kang and Kodos?
Best line: The film features plenty of characteristically bizarre one-liners, such as Moe's "The top of his head is still showing -- claw at it!" The most satisfying line may be the exchange when Bart (Nancy Cartwright) says, "This is the worst day of my life," and Homer happily corrects him: "The worst day of your life so far!"
Worst line: "D'ome!" declares Homer at the sight of a giant dome over Springfield.
Flesh factor: Bart skateboards to Krusty Burger in the nude, inspiring lots of Austin Powers-style strategic groin concealment, and finally a full frontal shot of, you know, "Little Bart." The film features a couple of sight gags involving the huge bosom of an Inuit medicine woman whom Homer calls "Boob Lady."
Hit single: Homer's porcine version of the "Spider-Man" theme, featured in three different versions, may be the year's funniest song. It totally overshadows Green Day's cover of "The Simpsons" theme and "The Springfield Anthem" in the closing credits.
Meta-joke: "Look at me, I'm the mascot of an evil corporation!" The joke is that Bart wears a black bra on his head to look like the ears of Mickey Mouse, mascot of the evil Disney Corp. The meta-joke is that Bart Simpson really is the mascot of the evil Fox Corp.
Hey, wait a minute: Why is Arnold Schwarzenegger (voiced by Harry Shearer) the U.S. president when the show has long had a parody version of Arnold, action star Rainier Wolfcastle?
Better than the show? Yes and no. The film features nice moments with Homer, Bart and Marge (Julie Kavner) and offers more laughs than you'd get from four current episodes of the show. The story, involving a giant dome, an Alaskan vision quest and an unfunny villain (Albert Brooks as the conniving head of the EPA), turns out to be as lame and contrived as any present-day plot. The movie makes you miss the show in its heyday and wonder if it would've been better if made five or 10 years earlier.
The bottom line: If The Simpsons Movie falls short of the TV-adaptation excellence of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, at least it's no waste of time like Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. Valuing quantity over quality of jokes pays off enough to keep the show's Comic Book Guy-type detractors from declaring "Worst Adaptation Ever." 3 stars
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