The Simpsons Movie is a decade too late. After hitting its peak with its fifth season, The Simpsons maintained a high level of quality up until the end of its seventh season in May of 1997; from then on it was a slow but steady decline, leading up to the currently airing season 18. Noises were being made about a Simpsons movie as far back as 1993, but it's only now it's being released - and it couldn't possibly have been at a worse time.
Despite marathon efforts to make the film a success - an agonisingly long production, involving the writers of the earliest, best seasons such as the lauded James L. Brooks, George Meyer, and director David Silverman - the problems that arise from releasing this film now rather than years ago are impossible to overcome. Namely, the fact that, after twenty years, every last character on the show, bar those of the late Phil Hartman, has become overexposed, taken to their extreme, and deteriorated to a shadow of their former self. The writing of the TV series hasn't been funny for at least three years, and hasn't made sense for at least eight. Even recruiting the original writers can't save a cast of characters that's tired before the opening credits.
Whereas originally The Simpsons was the smartest show on TV, The Simpsons Movie is ridiculously dumb. The jokes aren't funny and even they are few and far between. Where the TV show suffered from plot drift, the movie doesn't so much drift as spasm from one area to another; you find yourself forgetting that you're still watching the same movie when previous segments are referenced. And, mind-bogglingly, the last remaining characters who are remotely funny - like Ralph Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Mr. Burns - are all but absent, having barely a handful of lines between them.
The one saving grace is that probably one of the most difficult transitions - taking the trademark yellow-skinned cast from the small screen to the big screen - is made perfectly. The bigger budget provided for the movie when compared to the series means that despite being inherently simple so as to still look like The Simpsons, the texture and colour are breathtaking and David Silverman's direction choices make for some fantastic sweeping shots and crowd scenes that would never have been possible in the original series.
However, while the film may be good-looking, that's not enough to salvage the worthless plot, absence of good jokes, and the overt political agendas that have plagued the recent episodes. A Simpsons film ten years ago would have been a masterpiece of cinema, and probably one of the funniest films ever made; as it is, it's a disappointing - but not unsurprising - failure for all of those involved with the show we used to love.
One star out of five.
Gaz Hughes is a regular reviewer at rockmidgets.com