DVD Review: 'The Simpsons Movie'
Best. 'Simpsons' movie. Ever.
I found it a bit strange, this summer, when the endlessly anticipated "The Simpsons Movie" was instantly greeted by fans and critics alike as a triumph.
Even after rewatching it several times in advance of its Tuesday (Dec. 18) DVD release, my reaction remains a little more tempered.
On one hand, "The Simpsons Movie" avoided the major problem that has beset feature-lengthed versions of popular animated hits like "Family Guy" and "Futurama." It doesn't feel like three episodes loosely pasted together. Instead, with a running time of roughly 80 minutes, it feels like a movie, albeit not as organically realized as the "South Park" feature. Sure, the "Homer causes Springfield to get deemed an environmental disaster and stuck under a dome" narrative could have been covered in a standard episode, but it's fleshed out with an assortment of appealing B-stories including Lisa's Irish boyfriend, Bart's temporary desire to experiment with Flanders-ism, Grandpa's ability to forecast the future and a trip to Alaska.
But despite the lengthy running time, the movie gives short shrift to many of the franchise's beloved supporting characters. With 80 minutes, surely there could have been more Lenny and Carl, more Mr. Burns and Smithers, more Moe and Krusty, more Dr. Nick and Ralph Wiggum. How could there be so few pop culture references and how could there not be a musical number? Where was the couch gag and how could they not have found a way to pay tribute to Phil Hartman in some form?
That's the problem with "The Simpsons." No matter how much the show's creative team gives, fans want more and I'm just falling into that trap. After all, how much am I entitled to complain about a movie that gave me Spider-Pig? Perhaps it's a little sad that the movie's enduring creation is an oinker who lampoons the lead characters in two different Summer of 2007 blockbusters, but the Spider-Pig theme song makes me giggle every time I hear it.
Some of the enhanced visual style is lost on the DVD transfer, where the movie doesn't look any better than your standard "Futurama" episode. While the show's small screen incarnation has always concentrated on filling every frame with minutiae, some of the details that I remembered from seeing "The Simpsons Movie" in the theater were lost entirely on my tiny TV. That glorious shot of all of Springfield forming an unruly mob out to lynch Homer? Much less impactful when you have to rewind two or three times through to catch all the cameos.
The bonus features on this DVD release are mighty sparse, suggesting that a special edition may be coming down the pike sooner rather than later.
For now, viewers get a half-dozen deleted scenes including a little extra time with Emperor Moe and a partial explanation for how Homer made it from the wilderness of Alaska back to Springfield (a sausage truck... not so funny, or so necessary). The scenes tally less than five minutes total.
A section dubbed "Special Stuff" includes all of the cross-promotional material the show did in the spring to build interest in the movie. Probably the best snippet features Homer, Marge and Lisa standing in for the "American Idol" judges and tearing into Simon Cowell. You also get Homer's "Tonight Show" monologue and a parody of the "Let's All Go to the Lobby" movie spot.
As fans of the series have come to expect, the DVD includes multiple commentaries, one led by director David Silverman, and another featuring all of the usual creative suspects like James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean and Mike Scully, plus series voices Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith. The "Simpsons" gang is experienced enough with this commentary thing -- every episode available on DVD has come with a commentary -- that they avoid any silence and cover the long-delayed genesis and evolution of the project in the desired detail.