The Simpsons Movie

Voiced by Dan Castellenta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardly Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer. Directed by David Silverman.
Running Time: 87 minutes.
Rated: Rated PG. (mild animated violence, nudity and drug use, sexual references, coarse language and themes).

The Simpsons Movie is very funny.

For twenty years, the Simpsons have entertained television audiences with their madcap lives but, even more tellingly, with their spoof comments on human nature, social issues and political stances. In fact, The Simpsons has created an industry but also a niche in intelligent discussion of the media. Some contestants on Mastermind take The Simpsons as their topic and can identify incidents from episode to episode. Many Christians have written articles and books on how effective The Simpsons has been in offering a contemporary way of dealing with important values.

Not that Homer and his family are exemplars of righteous living. Often, Homer is far from this. But, the series has been written as an appeal to basic values that audiences believe in which becomes a means for our responding to the family's behaviour.

Homer himself is usually the cause of the problems with his obtuse selfishness, his immediate gratification and his inability to think things through let alone foresee consequences. Yet, sometimes, but especially here in the movie, he is the one who has to come to his senses and rectify the situation and save his family and the people of Springfield. He is both an irritating slob and a lovable human being who shows more than his fair share of human foibles.

Marge, on the other hand, with her high-rise blue hair, is normally the sensible one. Bart is mischievous but is always looking for some fatherly interest and care. Lisa is serious and the baby is a bit of a chameleon, gooey eyes one minute and mini-martial arts the next.

After twenty years, the producers have responded to popular demand for a feature film - and fans will not be disappointed.

The series has always delighted in witty screenplays and this one is full of clever lines. Even baby Maggie's first word at the end of the film is - 'sequel'!

Actual characters have always been a target for some send-ups and here we have glimpses of Hilary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger as president ('elected to lead, not read') and Tom Hanks wandering about, serious-minded.

Sight gags abound. The Simpsons Movie is strong on visual wit.

Then there are the messages. Basically, the plot is a recognition that global warming is a human responsibility. Homer is selfish and careless in disposing of waste and causes Springfield to be quarantined by a huge and impenetrable dome. He escapes but his conscience gets the better of him and he returns to try to make things right again.

There is also the theme of parenting and families. Homer is no example to Bart who finds his neighbour Flanders a better father to him - but he has to learn (as does Homer) what family bonds can be.

In many ways these messages are mini-sermons (though Homer is not very good when he attends Church and misses out on messages there). But, they are packaged in humour and irony, with many references to contemporary politicians and discussions, which means that we are laughing at the bad behaviour while we know what good behaviour ought to be. We 'get' the message.

At the session I attended, young children were laughing out loud at the characters and situations. Adults were laughing at the spoofs and satire. The Simpsons can communicate with everyone.

20th Century Fox Out Now

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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