Seen this weekend: “The Simpsons Movie”

There was a slight question about whether we’d see The Simpsons Movie during its opening weekend or wait a week; the kids were with us this weekend, and we had to make sure the PG-13 rating wasn’t too much for a 7-year-old. The 7-year-old’s 23-year-old stepbrother saw it on Saturday night and gave us a heads-up on some profanity and one instance of cartoon nudity, and we were not deterred. We figure the TV show would probably be rated the equivalent of PG-13 anyway, so we were off to the first show on Sunday morning, because when we would see it really had been the only question – there was no “if.” How could there be, when we had this on the top of our wedding cake?

Anyway…I really wanted to be able to start this off with “BEST. MOVIE. EVER.” but I honestly can’t. It’s a heck of a good time, though.

The basic plot framework is that which has been pretty well established over 18 years – Homer screws up, and then he has to fix it, but the stakes are higher this time. Lake Springfield has nearly become a toxic-waste dump, which spurs environmental activist Lisa Simpson into action and leads to a dumping ban. Of course, Homer’s the one who violates it (but for a good cause – pursuit of free donuts!) and causes the EPA to quarantine the entire town under a glass dome. The good citizens of Springfield drive the Simpsons out of town when they learn who’s to blame for the dome. Eventually, though, they have to return to save the town from complete destruction. A side plot has Bart Simpson finding and bonding with an unexpected father figure – Ned Flanders.

The Simpsons Movie is definitely funny and clear enough for a Springfield newbie to enjoy, but it offers even more to reward the longtime fan. There are plenty of laughs, and while it does slow down in a few spots, it does not feel like an overly drawn-out (no pun intended) episode of the TV show. The characters are themselves as we’ve come to know them (well, Itchy and Scratchy are actually less violent than usual, so the PG-13 rating isn’t their fault), and nearly every recognizable citizen of Springfield has his or her moment, but the focus is unquestionably on the Simpson family, as it should be. The animation isn’t Pixar quality, but it’s worthy of the big screen. Stay through the end credits (and by the way, that’s not Maggie’s first word). Even though you can see this on TV for free, it’s worth buying a ticket for The Simpsons Movie. And if you are a longtime fan, plan on buying this one on DVD so you can pick it apart for in-jokes later.

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