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The Simpsons Movie (DVD)

Starring: The usual voice actors, the usual characters, the usual selection of decent jokes, the usual observations on life and... a pig walking on the ceiling.

Rated: PG.

Story: Stop me if this sounds familiar, but Homer acts thoughtlessly and does something stupid and selfish. He dooms the entire town and alienates his wife and children. As a result, he must discover himself, save the day and win back the hearts of his family. This involves slapstick, idiocy, social commentary and doughnuts.

Comments: It's a while since I watched The Simpsons on TV. I overdosed on re-runs when Sprog1 was small because it's the perfect distraction while feeding a baby. At the end of each show, everything goes back the way it was to begin with and so it's possible to watch the episodes in almost any order without missing much. (Bart's been ten for nearly twenty years now!) Channel-hopping onto an episode was always a safe bet for some mild amusement and beat enduring endless repeats of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Then I got a bit bored with it and the advent of TiVo meant I had a wider selection of stuff to watch. The Simpsons slipped off my radar until I saw the amusing trailers for the movie. These made me want to see the film but, when the disc arrived through the post, I found myself reluctant to actually devote time to viewing it. I couldn't help thinking it was just going to be an extra-long episode.

When I finally got round to putting the movie in the DVD player, I was pleasantly surprised. It's witty, clever and has several laugh-out-loud sections. I had a strong urge to go buy some DVD box-sets of the TV series.

I only had opportunity to watch the first half of the movie before bedtime, though. I returned the next night, prepared for comic genius, and found myself watching the second half of an extra-long episode of The Simpsons. It wasn't awful, simply a little tired and predictable.

Maybe this disappointment at the last half an hour or so was down to altered expectations. Then again, maybe watching Homer mess up is funnier than watching him put things right, particularly when dragged out to feature length. (It didn't help, either, that the best bit of the finale is in the trailer.)

Nonetheless, the film is solidly fun throughout.

Of course, I'm assuming in all this that you haven't been living under a rock for a couple of decades and have seen an episode or two of The Simpsons at some point in your life. The movie assumes the same. The basic set up of the show is very simple - a dysfunctional American family struggles through one crisis after another, taking pot-shots at everything from politics to popular culture as they go. The horde of secondary characters, though, is vast and almost all of them make an appearance of some kind in the movie. This succession of cameos means the film is less accessible to newcomers than most normal episodes. If you have recently crawled out, blinking, into the harsh sunlight, sign up for cable and watch some re-runs first. (Oh, and by the way, this is the internet.)

As for everyone else, The Simpsons Movie is a cunning effort to extract some cash from fans and remind the rest of us that Homer, Bart and co. are still going. It's nothing special but it works - I still have that urge to go buy some box-sets.

Conclusion: It's The Simpsons... only longer.

Explosions: A couple.
Hilarious situations: Some.
Number of characters: Huge.
Familiarity: High.
Mr Burns: Not enough.
Spider Pigs: One.

Rating: 3/5.

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