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July 27, 2007
Taking Notes: I'll teach you to laugh at something that's funny! Edition

Taking Notes: The Simpsons Movie

Here we are yet again, with another non-canon edition of Taking Notes. As is the way it goes, my intent this week around, is yet another film to look at for the week ahead. The film in question being the greatest family adventure of all time, and yadda yadda, blah blah blah: The Simpsons Movie.

After dumping more waste into the already heavily polluted Springfield Lake, Homer inadvertently creates a toxic hazard, leading to Springfield being encased in a giant dome and quarantined; this turns Homer into public enemy number one, and seeing the assembly of the entire town to make him pay for what he's done. But, with the help of Maggie, Homer and his family escape the dome; but when they learn of the Presidents plans for Springfield, Homer must choose between his family, his town, and the people he cares about, or living out a dream.

When it comes to The Simpsons, I've been a fan for as long as I can remember, and like many others, grew up with their brand of humor; not always top shelf, and less recently had a strong decline in that very aspect to the point that I had, sadly, stopped watching entirely. But, even in this decline, I don't believe I ever thought that it was their swan song and that the show would slowly become more mediocre as time went on and finally be axed from the airwaves.

No, I was fairly confident that the series I grew up with would find its legs again, if I were to give it time to do so, and it came as no surprise to me that the more recent work of the program had indeed improved considerably, and with it my return to regular viewership. If nothing else its improvement was a reassurance that I was not incorrect in my belief that it would come back strong under the right circumstances, even if others still consider it of lower quality, and ultimately the continued waining years of what is one of the longest running, in my memory, animated series' to date in the US.

The Simpsons will mark its 19th season later this year, and if nothing else, I can't help but think that this is an amazing achievement, right up there with Britain's long running Doctor Who series. While it may not have the distinction of being consistently fantastic for all of the years its put behind itself, it's still amazing that it has lasted this long, and has stayed, especially considering the network it runs on, which isn't exactly friendly to series' without immediate success.

So, when I heard that a movie was in production, it quickly grew to priority status among the films to watch this year, which ultimately still is a short list even now, but still larger than last years theatrical viewing fare, or even the year before. And going into the film after such a long period in wait (well, it seemed that way, anyway) the worst worry that I had was that it may nearly be as amusing as the advertisements had been; which, if you consider a comedy film, can either make or break it, and luckily for me above all else, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The film itself is really an all out event, but even so doesn't seem to outgrow its britches; meaning that, while it's certainly a film, it's treated a lot more like its just an expanded episode of the series itself. They go to the hallmarks early on, while also poking fun at the cinematic experience itself along the way. Some of the funniest aspects of the film are the ones you never expect, and the team behind it certainly utilized the canvas for which they were given to great effect. Prior to the film actually starting out, there's a bit with Homer ranting to and about the audience, which was a brilliant way to kick everything into gear, and actually resulted in members of the audience storming out as a result of it, at the theater I had attended.
Whether it was intended or not, Homers rant really worked well to set the mood, aside generally being a genius introduction, and following that we're treated to a hallmark of the series' many long years in an Itchy and Scratchy short, before moving head-long into the narrative for the rest of the film.

I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking that it would be just 'another episode', based on the handling, but as it sets its pacing, it quickly becomes apparent, as surely the audience gasps, that the guys upped the ante of the gags considerably, with some that more than likely couldn't have been used in the series due-- as advertisements suggest --an abundance of irreverent humor; which made the overall experience as enjoyable as I can remember having, but maybe that's a given when you're clutching your sides, crying, and struggling to breathe.

Looking for a downside to the whole affair, the best I can come to would be: jokes, and Colin. The former is that there were a small number of jokes that barely achieved so much as a 'heh', from me; but compared to how much laughing I had done during the course of the film, it's easily forgivable, when a tiny number miss in a field of home runs. Moving along, the later, Colin, is a character established as a romantic interest of Lisa's, which beyond that did very little, and when push comes to shove, ultimately had nothing to do with plot, let alone provide any amusing discourse. This again, isn't terrible, but if you write a character that has absolutely no relevancy to the film, it really suggests that it's a cheap device to fill time, and attempt to play jokes off of, which in this instance happened very infrequently.

Of these negatives, and aside what they hadn't done for the film, they also hadn't been such a problem that they lowered the over all quality of the film for it; instead, they were a few misses in an otherwise especially funny presentation that was ultimately no better or no worse for having failed on these accounts.

There's almost nothing more that can be said, but if you're still questioning whether or not its worth seeing until the end, let me remark that the film ends just as spiritedly as it had begun, with a surprise treat, which you may not expect. Want to know what it is? Go see the film. Also, as a little advice, stay for the credits; the film doesn't truly end until the credits have finished!

To be perfectly honest, I don't know what the hell I saw last night, but damn was it ever fun. Fun, on the level that this may very well be the film of the year to see, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were the must own DVD when that hits store shelves.

-- lost in thought

Tags: Column, Taking Notes, opinion, Simpsons, Movie

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