Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

I don't think it was revolutionary or even blatantly counter-cultural in any way, and my feelings on this may have been swayed by the circumstances in which I watched it, but I think that parts of the Simpsons Movie are admirably subversive.

My analysis starts with the realities of movie-going today. The Simpsons is rated PG, which means ostensible "family fare" will be featured during the previews. I've previously written about the head-slappingly awful looking kid's movie about the Rock who finds out he's the father of a girl he's never met before. Leave it to the Disney corporation to reveal to America's children the consequences of capricious bachelorhood and wayward semen. Previews from children's movies are endlessly cringe-worthy. Take, for instance, the new Daddy Daycare movie, which cast the (shockingly) available Cuba Gooding Jr. in the Eddie Murphy role and, in all seriousness, just found some schlub off the street who most resembled Jeff Garlin. It appears to feature a young girl who speaks like an adult and apparently understands the nuances of contract law (and in this regard, maybe she can give Cuba a few pointers for his next film), a creepy February-March romance, and a kid who gets nauseous on a bus trip and throws up on Cuba (and they didn't even bother hiding the fact that they ripped off the Simpsons - the kid even looks like the human equivalent of the character). Then, there was a preview for the continuing bastardization of Dr. Seuss' legacy and misuse of Steve Carell (I gave up on Jim Carrey long ago), a CGI version of Horton Hears a Who.

Add to this that a number of people brought some pretty young kids to the movie, which then reminded me of how revolutionary the Simpsons was when it debuted in the late-'80s. People came in expecting family-friendly fare and were shocked to the point of labeling the show "immoral". The movie, needless to say, does not and could not have this effect. It comes reasonably close in some cases, though.

If you haven't seen the movie, you may want to lay off the following and go see it. It's funny.

Totally obliterating the gooey sentimentality and cringe-worthy plot elements of the previews, the movie starts with in space with an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon with typical Itchy and Scratchy results - the cat gets impaled a number of times before having his glass helmet cracked, which pops one of his eyes out. I couldn't help imagining the writers of the movie extending a giant "fuck you" to those previews and to lowest-common-denominator frills in general.

One of the other parts that I thought was most subversive was when Bart, on a dare, rides naked on his skateboard through Springfield and passes Ralph Wiggum who suddenly says, "I like boys now." This perfectly anticipates those moral crusaders who think the sheerest hint of nudity or sexuality will make boundary-less, craven hedonists of those impressionable minds who nonetheless laugh at the bare yellow ass in front of them.

I heard an audible gasp and a disapproving aside made by a lady behind me when two cops show up in a scene at the motel presumably to arrest the Simpsons, but who instead slink off behind the place and start making out, heading into a motel room. Now, this isn't a particularly shocking or surprising Simpsons gag, which is why I think maybe the matinee-lite experience weighs too heavily on my analysis, but it still got a laugh out of me and produced another jab at those who think PG movies should be sanitized or Disney-approved. Though it's not a kids movie, kids can handle this stuff and then years later come back and appreciate the social commentary (which isn't groundbreaking, of course, but its funny given the unexpected detour and the subtext of our typically rigid police presence and that sub-strata's disapproval of deviation.). And Bart gets very drunk on whiskey. Fantastic.

I also loved how, once everyone thinks it's all over, the drunks go into the chapel, and the church-goers go into the bar.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's caricature is closer in reality to George W. Bush than it is to Schwarzenegger, and so the writers cleverly sidestep the problem with any caricature of Bush - it'll never top the real thing. The president here is a plasticine figure-head who is easily manipulated, has a leaden way of talking, and has a distinct inability to handle nuance or problem-solve. Works for me, and as a bonus, it won't run in on the ignominious territory of shows like Li'l Bush.

These are only some of the examples that I remember. At all times, I was entertained, and I laughed a lot more often than I thought I would. Just seeing all those characters on-screen warmed my heart.


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