As someone who grew up on the Simpsons and looks back on their heyday lovingly, it's been quite unpleasant to watch their gradual descent into crap. It's no secret that the show has declined horribly for the last decade, and quite frankly anyone who says that the show has maintained the same level of quality is flat out lying to themselves (and anyone who says the show has gotten better needs to be hospitalized).
It's only natural for a television show to lose steam after a while. It happens to every show, usually after about three or four seasons, and while the Simpsons made it pretty far with seven awesome seasons (hell, I'll even defend the eighth and ninth seasons, as those had some great episodes as well), it too fell apart.
The characters we once loved are gone. Homer has gone from a heavily flawed but well meaning man to a borderline retarded, giggling lunatic, whose gags essentially consist of him getting hit by large objects. He's a slapstick device who coined the term "D'oh!" now, and nothing more. Bart is no longer a clever mischief seeker so much as a small Homer, almost as dumb as his father. Etcetera, etcetera. They are no longer characters, they're walking catch phrases and caricatures of their former selves. The stories about them, about how this dysfunctional family connects with one another despite shortcomings and life's cruel circumstance? All gone in exchange for wacky happenings and lame slapstick humor. Back in its prime, the show could be utterly hilarious, incredibly moving, and even thought provoking - often at the same time! And remember how episodes would have at least one subplot which would eventually tie in to the main one in some sort of clever fashion? They don't really do that anymore, either.. in fact, the movie couldn't be bothered to even construct A plot at all! Speaking of which, maybe it's about time to quit rambling and get to that...
Before ripping into it, let's go over its good qualities. The production values are spectacular. Traditional animation is blended with tasteful CGI, and the movie overall looks great. Also, with the movie being just shy of an hour and a half in length, it doesn't have much opportunity to drag on, and it remains entertaining enough throughout. And um... I guess that's about it.
The movie is about... well actually, I'm not quite sure what it's about, really. Worse, I'm not sure the writers even know! The plot is a disjointed mess. Elements are thrown together haphazardly, and a large amount of the jokes are simply self referential - so many of them have already been done on the show, and done better. The plot elements have been done before too, and again, handled far better.
We start with Homer getting a pig, and mishandling its crap, which results in an environmental disaster so large that the town of Springfield has to be quarantined... with a gigantic dome. You know, the pig that dominated the trailer with lame jokes. With all the time it got in the trailer, you'd think it would be a significant part of the film, right? Well, no.. everything you saw in the trailer about the pig is ALL that's in the movie. So anyway, now that the pollution levels are so dangerously high, you might think that this movie has an environmental message of some sort... but it doesn't. Everybody more or less forgets about this, and the pollution problem is never really dealt with. In the midst of all this, Lisa meets an Irish boy that she likes, but his overall screen time combined with any reference made to him totals at less than five minutes, and it ultimately goes nowhere. Bart drifts away from Homer, and finds a rather unlikely father figure in... of all people, Flanders. Again, this is seldom referred to, and at the end Bart decides to reconcile with Homer for no real explainable reason.
Then the Simpsons flee to Alaska, and why? I have no idea. There is no humor mined from this concept, and it feels like they merely threw darts at a map to decide where this sequence should take place. While they're there, the family leaves Homer, and he goes on a spirit quest with a Native American woman. Because that's all Native Americans do, right? Go on spirit quests. We can have Jewish characters who aren't always praying to God, we can have black characters who aren't gangster rappers, we can have Japanese characters who aren't constantly doing Karate, but once we get to Native Americans, racial profiling is suddenly okay. Why is that? Doesn't it strike anyone else as odd that we never see Native American characters who aren't constantly talking about spirit quests and "my people," and are just normal people like everybody else?
In any case, partly thanks to a ridiculous tit joke, Homer is sent on the right direction and goes to get his family back and save Springfield, which is now a Mad Max-ish dystopian society in which Moe is king. Why? Who the hell knows. It doesn't matter though, because everybody forgets all about this, too. Perhaps it was just to give Moe something to do... the characters who aren't in the family don't really get any screen time. Speaking of which, this is one of my biggest grievances with this film...
WHY WOULD YOU MAKE THE PRESIDENT ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGAR WHEN YOU HAVE RAINIER FUCKING WOLFCASTLE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU??
This completely baffled me. It would have made the joke a hundred times funnier, and I have no clue why they wouldn't use him. Did they think the fans were too stupid to get the joke? Did they just forget about him entirely? What the hell?
Anyway, so after all this, the movie makes the first good move yet:
Ultimately, this movie just made me sad. A franchise I've loved for as long as I can remember is now basically an entity that sells products for the highest bidder. And we're not talking Butterfinger ads, or the awesome Summer after Mr. Burns was shot when each bar came with a dossier on different characters from the show. A ploy to get more bars sold? Of course. But at least it was creative. At least it was fun for all the kids immersed in the show. Now, what is it? Lame Burger King commercials, Super Bowl Coca Cola ads, pay disputes for voice actors (because apparently $250,000 an episode is too meager a salary), and so on, and so on, all while the quality continues to suffer. Speaking of which, remember the people who would defend the show's waning quality, saying that it was because the writers were saving the best jokes for the movie? I'm glad I haven't watched the show for a good few years... because if that really is the case, I can only imagine that the show is now Homer crying in a dark room for a half hour because he's been raped (which would be strangely appropriate). The Simpsons was once great, yes. It was one of the greatest shows ever aired. Now it's a shadow of its former self, being dragged along for sake of lining pockets. Ultimately the movie is just an extension of the shit this show has become. It's coasting on a wave of nostalgia, preying on the people who refuse to accept the awful truth. Fuck this movie.