The Simpsons: a shark well jumped

The Simpsons Movie at the O2 Dome.

It didn’t live up to the TV shows, especially in earlier series. Indeed, the film didn’t even score as a parody. It missed the whole point of the series, the very thing that made the yellow denizens of Springfield great.

The reason? Layers. Written by people with an understanding of philosophy, culture, and history – who knew their Barthe from their Bart – the best of the episodes always communicated on several levels. The floaty instant-water-added slapstick of the pratfalls and antics …. the darker level below, of ironic commentary on broader society … and the deepest level, of fundamental human themes of hate and love and greed. It’s these layers that made the simplistic artwork and hackneyed situations so addictive – ultimately, the episodes were Grand Stories, on a level with those written by that other Homer of ancient Greece.

The film, however, was written purely on the top level – just a succession of pratfalls. No deeper meaning, no sardonic sideswipes at the human condition. (Couldn’t the doming of Springfield have been taken forward, into a metaphor for the post-911 Fortress America? Or Bart’s naked skateboard ride a sideswipe at puritanical American society, where prostitution is illegal unless there’s a video camera present, in which case it’s protected by First Amendment?)

While it crushed some sacred cows – Bart’s penis, the Homer/Marge sex scene, giving away the exact fictional location of Springfield – these are only really of delight to hardcore fans, lazy in-jokes rather than broad appeal. And the narrative wasn’t tight enough. What, for example, happened to the pig? Couldn’t the last scene have involved Homer munching a BLT? No Principal Skinner, and only a cursory Mr Burns without even a gay sight gag involving Smithers? And why didn’t Colin have a bigger role; shouldn’t there have been some sidestory around him and Lisa as the main narrative unfolded?

It was all very, very disappointing, lacking everything that made the TV show so great. It proved that the show is way past its prime. The shark has been jumped with a ten-metre vaulting pole.

Now if you’ll excuse me – I’m just going off to bury myself in a bottle. That was truly depressing.

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