Big Screen D'oh!
Saw "The Simpsons Movie" with the boy over the weekend, and though we both enjoyed it, this isn't the best "Simpsons" effort to date. There are a lot of truly funny and clever bits, inescapable when the likes of George Meyer, John Swartzwelder, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and Jon Vitti are contributing. But as a film, it doesn't really hold together. It may be that "The Simpsons" has been on TV for so long that a film version cannot compete with all the classic moments from the past. Had there been a "Simpsons" movie a few years into the franchise, perhaps it would've been fresher and edgier. For the boy and me, the best moments have already occurred (a few of which are paid homage to in the film), so there's not much left to work with. Despite this, "The Simpsons Movie" is still worth seeing. It's a lot funnier than 99% of current Hollywood comedies.
The one consistent element of "The Simpsons" that remains is the subtle -- at times, not so subtle -- Fuck You to American culture and Americans in general. I don't know if this is clearly seen or understood by the majority of Simpsons' fans, considering the popularity that Springfield family enjoys. The audience we saw the film with laughed loudest at the violence and slapstick. The political and cultural humor received a few titters here and there, a stray laugh, a snort. Then again, we watched this in the Midwest, not exactly a hotbed of satirical appreciation (to be fair, the same can be said of the more elite types on the coasts, as I'm reminded when submitting a particularly harsh piece to Huffington Post, say). "Family Guy" goes more for the throat than does "The Simpsons"; and should there ever be a "Family Guy" film, I suspect it will be a much darker effort. At least I hope so.
Hollywood has always sold shit to its audience, but after watching the previews of some upcoming comedies, I wonder if we're in an especially shittier period. "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Horton Hears A Who", the latter of which stars the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell, look witless and dreadful, more chum bait for addled parents to drag their bored kids through. "The Game Plan" with The Rock resembles those comedies that Schwarzenegger made in the late-80s/early-90s, and no doubt as hilarious. "Good Luck Chuck" is yet another Dane Cook vehicle, featuring Cook's standard screaming and leaping shtick as he tries to avoid fucking a willing Jessica Alba ('coz, see, every straight guy wants to fuck Jessica Alba, and not wanting to is funny). The audience guffawed through much of these previews, which made sense, given that the gags are recycled tripe and predictable from the jump. In these troubled times, mechanized laughter helps to ease the tension between mouthfuls of artificially-buttered popcorn and loud slurps of soda. Something Homer Simpson would appreciate.