"I can't believe we're paying for something we get to see on TV. Everyone in this theatre is a sucker!" That's not Total Film talking but Homer J. Simpson Esq., kickstarting The Simpsons Movie. After 17 long years, America's bright yellow family finally hits the big screen. Woo-hoo! But is it /really/ worth paying cinema prices for something that's on TV? Hell, yes. Forget the recent griping and backlash, The Simpsons Movie has bragging rights as the best cartoon-to-cinema outing. Period.
When The Simpsons started in 1990, Bart was the star and spawned a million "Eat My Shorts" T-shirts. These days Homer's eclipsed him and this film - dubbed "Homer's Odyssey" by creator Matt Groening - follows the donut-munching patriarch as he acquires a pet pig, sparks a national security emergency that gets Springfield quarantined and is exiled to Alaska, "where you can never be too fat or too drunk".
The secret of the movie's success is that it doesn't try to be more than an 86-minute episode of the TV series; no easy feat with a show this inventive and iconic. In normal circumstances, 11 writers should equal messy incoherence, but these guys are The Borg of comedy writers. They're like a hive mind: each writer honing, trimming and extending every gag until it snowballs into something greater. So Homer getting a pet porker is multiplied by the power of 11 till it delivers the "Spiderpig" joke, a bestiality gag ("Maybe we should kiss to break the tension…") and Homer styling the piggy wiggy's hair ("You've got /so/ many looks").
The jokes are relentless: naked Bart skateboarding is classic; then there's Police Chief Wiggum suffering near death by donut or Homer's trademark, zigzag hair being slowly pulled off. Out of 1,000 gags only two or three puns fall flat; but then maybe it's not humanly possible for an audience to laugh non-stop for an entire 86 minutes. Simpsons nerds will be compiling their top 100 gag lists for years to come. Our favourite? The moment when Homer's chased by irate Springfield residents, barricades himself inside his bedroom and fends off their grasping hands by pretending he's armed and dangerous: "Stay back, I've got a chainsaw in here… [mimes starting the motor] Num-numma-num-num-num"
If there's a fault, it's that the Simpsons universe is too big for a single movie, leaving much-loved characters like Mr Burns or Krusty out in the cold. But it's a minor gripe in an otherwise flawless outing that'll leave you exhausted, elated and literally in pain from laughing so much. As Homer might say, it's the best Simpsons Movie we've seen in our lifetimes…. so far. Start praying S2 arrives before 2024.
Worth every minute of the 17-year wait, The Simpsons Movie confirms Groening's creation as the smartest, funniest, most inventive cartoon in history. It's 86 minutes of pure comedy gold (or yellow). Watch it and weep' with laughter.