To d’oh or not to d’oh

Count ’em, ‘The Simpsons’ have entertained 17 years of boob tube dominance, but are 85 minutes of silver glimmer enough?

by Michael Garberich

Watching “The Simpsons Movie” is like sitting at a trial for your entire family: You know their every breath, their every tick, and when they try to pass a lie, you see it as plainly as if it were exhibit A. When your mother, bless her, makes a sly defiant remark to the jury and follows it with a proud wave in your direction, you can’t help but smile in return. You had been waiting for it since she took the stand, yourself taken slightly aback that she had waited so long to acknowledge you. Yet you never forget that you’re in this courtroom this day to judge them. You and everyone else in this courtroom are here to judge what you all know so well.

“The Simpsons Movie”

DIRECTED BY: David Silverman
VOICES BY: Hank Azaria, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner
PLAYING AT: Area Theaters

The Simpsons – Marge and Homer, Bart and Lisa, Maggie and Grandpa – we know them so well. This is family, and family, in this country, is an institution. And this family, if any, is the televised cultural institution of our last 17 years, just shy of being legal. And we still remember when we all lived together in that one full house.

When the movie begins, Itchy impales Scratchy with an American flag on the moon, and then launches the country’s stockpile of nuclear missiles into the screwed feline’s mouth. Hannity and Colmes. Itchy and Scratchy. We know. Scratchy’s only there as the chump to soak up Itchy’s crap. It’s time-tested. Kid-tested. Maybe not mother-approved. But we laugh. We laugh because we know. That Itchy. Damn funny mouse if ever a mouse was funny. (Look later in the movie for the show’s most overt bash against that other institutional mouse to make a buck in entertainment.)

But while the cat and mouse chase each other on the moon, what’s going on back at Springfield? Why, the entire family is in fact watching that cat and mouse on the big screen. That’s right, Bertolt Brecht. Take notes, David Lynch. That bowling pin of a father who stole our hearts with his hands around Bart’s neck stands up and yells at the screen, “Why would I pay to watch something I can get at home for free?” Then he calls everyone in the theater a sucker – you and you and you, and then he points directly at You! and – how we’d been waiting for it, what took him so long? – he says, “especially yyyoooouuuu.” Oh Homey, you do love us!

The opening credits role, that familiar tune, and here come the references, bubbly pop low and Ph.D. high. What more? Any less? Green Day sings the show’s theme on a floating barge, “Da Da Da Da Da Da DaÖ” scrolls on a teleprompter. A ticker pops up at the bottom of the screen, advertising a show for Fox with a wink. “That’s right,” it tells us. “We even advertise in movies now.” Somewhere in New Haven a young woman has just given birth to a 60-page, double-spaced dissertation. Congratulations! It’s a cum laude!

But Mr. Groening knows that an hour and a half of self-referential look-what-I-can-do! will only hold our attention for so long. Even Dave Eggers’ genius eventually got over its staggering and on with its story. Objection, your honor! We love meta. Overruled. Mr. Groening, please proceed.

So there’s this pig, right? Spider-Pig, right? And Al Gore is involved. And Bono. Or their Simpsons equivalents, at least. Lisa, today, will be playing the role of Mr. Gore. And our Bono will be a young Irish lad named Colin, who is not, he repeats, not! Bono’s son.

We know the gist. The seemingly innocuous item (Spider-Pig) befriends noxious buffoon (Homer) and together they damn all of Springfield (within a giant glass dome) because some powerful force (the government) has caught wind, albeit a step behind the rest, of an important issue now plaguing the city (environmental degradation).

We know it all so well. We can get it and have gotten it for 17 years at home for free – television, that is, not “it,” though we are married, Father. It’s a

30-minute episode stretched three times its length and God help us if that buffoon doesn’t set out to right his wrong.

Your honor, we ask of you today to confer upon these humble creatures a judgment that duly rewards their continued service to our great nation, their few faults notwithstanding, insofar as, sufficient evidence to prove the contrary lacking, they’re damn funny and you know it as well as you know your own mother.