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The Simpsons Movie (2007)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 12/18/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/5/2007
I either have very obscure tastes or very bad tastes (you make the call!), but it seems that the things that I really like are never very popular. One of the exceptions to this is The Simpsons. I have been a fan of the show since the very beginning, and I never thought that it would take off. Well, here we are 18 years later and my favorite show is still going strong. As way of further validation, The Simpsons have jumped from the small screen to the big screen in The Simpsons Movie. Can this film live up to 18 years of hype?
Obviously, The Simpsons Movie stars the Simpsons family -- Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta), the alcoholic, brain-dead dad, Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner), the worry-wart mom, Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright), the underachiever, Lisa (voiced by Yeardley Smith), the overachiever, and Maggie, the baby. The film opens with Green Day (played by the members of Green Day) sinking into Springfield's pollution-filled lake. The toxic mess was caused by people dumping everything into the lake. Therefore, a new "no dumping" law is passed and a barricade is erected around the lake. Meanwhile, Homer saves a pig from being slaughtered and adopts it as a pet. He packs the pig's...droppings into a home-made silo, which Marge insists he dispose of. Being the lazy man that he is, Homer dumps the silo into the lake, which sends Springfield into an ecological nightmare. EPA Director Russ Cargill (voiced by Albert Brooks) learns of this and orders that a clear dome be placed over Springfield. The citizens of the town immediately begin to suffer, but The Simpsons find a way to escape. Will they flee or fight to save their hometown?
When a show which is still in first-run makes the leap to the big screen, one of two things happens: you either get an extra long episode of the show, or something which is bigger and better than the regular program. With The Simpsons Movie, we get a combination of the two. One immediately notices that the animation looks different. This is clearly The Simpsons and the filmmakers have wisely stuck with the familiar hand-drawn animation, but the colors are richer and the overall image has a subtle 3-D effect. (There is a more liberal use of computer generated animation to assist the hand-drawn stuff here.) And while the TV show never lets the bounds of reality stop it, The Simpsons Movie features more action scenes and locations then we are used to seeing. However, I must say that I was surprised by the lack of guest voices in the film. Other than Albert Brooks (who has been on the show numerous times) and Green Day, the show is lacking any celebrity guests.
But, outside of the visual improvements and big action scenes, The Simpsons Movie is simply a super-size episode of the show. As with the show, the movie opens with a series of seemingly innocuous and random events, and they come together to form a story. And the film features all of the familiar characters from the show. The problem is that the movie plays like a fairly mediocre episode of the show. Now, I'll be honest, I love The Simpsons and I laughed out loud many times during the movie. However, I was expecting much more. I think that the comedy collapses under the enormity of the story. The movie works so hard to introduce the plot and incorporate every character that the jokes are often left behind. It would be inaccurate to say that the movie is bad, but it's not what it could have been.
If we act on the assumption that The Simpsons Movie was 18 years in the making, it's a disappointment. Granted, I didn't see it in the theater and maybe that makes a difference. Seeing it on DVD, again, it has the feel of a very long episode. And as with the show, the jokes are hit or miss. I'm glad that my favorite show is still going strong, but I wanted more from the movie.
The Simpsons Movie gets animated on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one widescreen and the other full-frame. (Those ignorant enough to buy the full-frame release will completely miss a joke at the film's opening.) For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Please keep in mind that I'm viewing a special preview copy and the problems that I've encountered may not be on the final release. The image is sharp and clear, but the picture is littered with problems. There is pixellation around the character's faces, along with video noise. At many points, it's impossible to ignore. On the positive side, the colors look fantastic and we really get a great view of the richer tones which were used for the film. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track and a DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie has a great sound design and both tracks show this. The stereo effects are good, and the surround sound and subwoofer effects really add to the action scenes. Of the two, I found that the DTS track was clearer.
Given the success of the film, The Simpsons Movie DVD only has a small selection of extra features. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully, David Silverman, Dan Castellaneta, and Yeardley Smith. This is a fun chat as the group speaks at length about the jokes which didn't make the cut. They seem to talk more about what we aren't seeing, then what we are. The funniest moments here come when they discuss a joke which flopped. We then have a Director's Commentary with David Silverman, Mike B. Anderson, Steven Dean Moore, and Rich Moore. This talk is more focused, but it's equally entertaining, as the group discusses the work which went into making the film, and they do hit that popular topic, the jokes which were cut. The DVD contains 6 DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes and start with an intro by Al Jean. There are some funny moments here, but nothing great and nothing different from the movie. The "Special Stuff" section contains what appear to be TV promotional appearances by The Simpsons. This includes: "Homer's Monologue on The Tonight Show" (90 seconds) (Was this really on?), "The Simpsons judge American Idol" (1 minute), "Homer Introduces American Idol" (30 seconds), and "Let's All Go To The Lobby" (20 seconds). All of these are brief and somewhat odd. The extras are finished off with "A Lot of Trailers", which includes: Announcement Trailer, Bunny Trailer 1, Bunny Trailer 2, The Line/Teaser Trailer, and Theatrical Trailer.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is also bringing The Simpsons Movie to Blu-ray Disc. The disc features a 1080p HD AVC transfer (although the box erroneously states that it's MPEG-2) which runs at an average of 37 Mbps. I won't try to dress this up for you, the picture looks awesome. This is the kind of transfer that I was expecting from every movie when I first got into Blu-ray. The image is flawless, as it shows no grain or other defects. The colors, which were already rich on the DVD, are breathtaking here, and as silly as this may sound, they were so life-like that it hurt my eyes. The depth of the image emphasizes the slightly 3-D look of the animation. This will be transfer that you will use to convert people to Blu-ray. The audio on the disc is a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track. This is the best track that I've heard thus far on a Fox Blu-ray. The dialogue is always clear and audible. The track is very detailed and we are treated to even the most minute sound effect. Surround sound effects are frequent and very satisfying and the bass effects add emphasis to the many action scenes, or any time that Homer falls down. The technical quality on this disc is everything that I hoped it would be. The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long