Has the ending of a movie be greeted with more of a sigh of relief? Not the ending, exactly, but the fact that it wasn’t a disappointment? Groening, Brooks, et al created a movie that felt like throwback, Ullman-roots Simpsons with its focus on the family dynamic. Yet, it didn’t feel dated, tapping into the current political sentiment by creating the most evil EPA agent since Walter Peck unleashed the spirits of Zool across New York. And it feels timeless, in that Springfield-universe kind of way. In fact, the bubble erected over Springfield (Lake Springfield has become a Tyson-like pigshit lagoon) is a metaphor for the series itself: An animated Twainian universe for post-Reagan America.
The decline of “The Simpsons” has been well-documented. Talent has left, the writing became sloppy, and the satirical jabs softened as the show became an institution. For the last five seasons or so, “The Simpsons” has been in a Connecticut Yankee/Pudd’nhead Wilson stage, with the artists losing their grip after the creation of three to four seasons of masterwork. This movie is sort-of like Tom Sawyer Abroad, where the great master returned to earlier great works to rebuild his reputation.
The Simpsons Movie is not an opportunity lost. In a familiar Simpsons trope, Homer pushes his marriage to the brink, but the movie fleshes Marge’s feelings out. On the show, Marge takes Homer back because inside he’s a big lug who loves his family, but true to sitcom form, it always feels a little forced. Here, Marge is given more space; her housewife’s lament is as wrenching as anything in The Hours. Bart actually considers leaving Homer and Marge for Flanders, asking us: Yeah, Rod and Todd are creepy, but is the alternative really better?