At its best, The Simpsons TV show is brilliantly satirical & lampoons every aspect of American society equally - Republicans & Democrats, religious zealots & atheists, corporate robber-barons & hippies, Hollywood celebrities & lunch-pail-toting working stiffs. I looked forward to the release of the movie - imagine what the writers could do with a 90 minute format instead of a 20 minute story arc. So, off I went & sat in a theatre full of teenagers rather than wait for its release on DVD. That was a mistake. This movie is spectacularly unfunny, and worst of all, it's political humour is uncharacteristically one-sided & heavy-handed.
The plot is no better than a TV episode, which is disappointing considering what they could have done with the time. The familiar elements are there - Homer screws something up, creates a crisis complete with sight-gags, groin-hits & celebrity cameos which threatens the Simpson family and/or the town of Springfield, & eventually his love for his family triumphs & saves the day. However, the political jokes were so ham-fisted and anti-Republican that I think MoveOn.org must have been involved.
Every major political gag in the film is aimed at Republicans or capitalists. Arnold Schwarzenegger (notably not Rainier Wolfcastle, his alter-ego in the TV show) is the President of the US & is too stupid to make decisions without being manipulated by his Cheney-esque advisor. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a billionnaire named Cargill (get it?) who "wants to give something back to America, except money" & runs the EPA to benefit his corporate interests - his company built the dome used to seal off Springfield and the bomb he tries to destroy it with. The National Security Agency runs a gigantic phone-tapping operation which eavesdrops on every phone conversation in America - when they pick up a call by fugitive Marge Simpson, an agent stands up and yells "YES!!! We finally found someone we were looking for!!!". When the Simpsons flee to Alaska, they are met at the border against a backdrop of oil derricks by an official who hands them a thousand dollars and says "We pay everyone in Alaska to let us destroy the environment."
This would be fine, and expected, but for the fact that hardly anyone on the left is held up to ridicule. There are some mild gags; Hillary Clinton is Vice President to President Itchy in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon; Lisa Simpson gives a presentation about pollution at Springfield Town Hall called "An Irritating Truth"; but no lefties are satirized the way that Republicans are. Even the celebrity cameos (by Green Day, of American Idiot fame) are handled with kid gloves - they are eventually killed off by toxic waste in Lake Springfield while playing Nearer My God To Thee. Why didn't they give a speech about global warming and then hop in a carbon-spewing Lear jet? Why wasn't Mayor Quimby (an obvious Kennedy Democrat in the TV show) portrayed opposing wind farms near his compound, or eating endangered Chilean sea bass while driving a car full of blonde groupies off a bridge into Lake Springfield?
One thing is true about politics - both ends of the spectrum are equally ripe for satire. The writers of The Simpsons are brilliant at doing this, but one senses after watching this movie that they are conscious of an impending election & definitely have a dog in the fight. It's a pity - this could have been a brilliant movie. I hardly laughed at all the way I usually do during a good TV episode. Neither, for that matter, did the teen-aged audience in the theatre.
RELATED: check out this review by John Podhoretz in The Weekly Standard