Andy Bockelman: Film version of ‘The Simpsons’ a much-needed break |

Andy Bockelman: Film version of ‘The Simpsons’ a much-needed break

In an event that has been inevitable for the past 20 years, “The Simpsons” has made the transition to the big screen.

Things are normal for the Simpsons – or at least as normal as they ever are for the animated family.

Homer becomes obsessed with a pig he has adopted, Bart feels ignored by his father and takes up with neighbor Ned Flanders, Lisa continues to campaign for the environment and Marge believes Grandpa has had a prophetic vision foretelling of the doom of the town of Springfield.

These separate stories intertwine when the water of Lake Springfield is declared toxic by the local government.

Unsurprisingly, Homer proves he can always make a bad situation worse, and his subsequent thoughtless transgression (one of his most disgusting, ever) results in a quarantine of the entire town by the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, this episode of the lives of the residents of Springfield cannot be wrapped up in half an hour, leading the title family on their biggest adventure yet.

The usual lineup of voice artists is at its best; Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge), Nancy Cartwright (Bart) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa) prove that, even after two decades, they still are top-notch as one of television’s most memorable families.

Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer voice their usual endless list of supporting characters (Chief Wiggum, Apu, Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, just to name a few), but as good as they are, they take a backseat to the aforementioned quartet, whose characters get a much-needed focus that has been lacking in the recent seasons of the show.

Another asset is that the movie is not submerged in the sea of unnecessary guest stars that has been flooding the show during the last few years.

Wisely, the movie’s makers bring only frequent series guests Albert Brooks and Joe Mantegna aboard, with a quick appearance by punk rockers Green Day and a doozy of a cameo that is better left a surprise.

Although many fans may complain that “The Simpsons” has been going downhill for years with outlandish storylines and little character development, putting the show in film format is just the break it has needed.

After 400 episodes, the show’s writers have clearly been aching to put their work on a wider scale and with an extending running time, the kind of changes that have been so apparent in the show’s evolution finally pay off like never before.

Granted, the movie comes nowhere near recapturing the show’s glory days (arguably within the first six seasons), but is funny nonetheless.

Far from being the end of the series (which is scheduled to continue at least until 2010), the movie proudly reminds viewers that, as the predecessor of edgier animated shows such as “Beavis and Butthead,” “South Park” and “Family Guy” (the first two of which beat the yellow family to the Cineplex), “The Simpsons” will forever be known as one of the most influential and groundbreaking shows on TV.

Although the film is strictly for fans of the original show, “The Simpsons Movie” is hilarious within seconds as slow kid Ralph Wiggum appears in the 20th Century Fox (humming along with the fanfare), and immediately asserts itself as solid entertainment when Homer stands up in the middle of an “Itchy & Scratchy” movie to tell the audience that they are suckers for paying money to watch something they can see on TV.

“The Simpsons Movie” is now playing at the West Theater.

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