Matt Groening brings his long running franchise back to its roots in The Simpsons Movie by making one of the warmer comedies this year. Despite the perceived and frankly exaggerated drop in quality of the television show by naysayers attempting to keep in vogue, the filmic incarnation positions itself as still being culturally relevant, a vantage point afforded from being the elderstatesman of popular culture. With the familiar dynamics of the television show surprisingly translating into an energetic cinematic experience, the scope of its subversive charm is on a much larger canvas and pointedly at itself.
Ask any fan of the television series what the most endearing aspect of the show is and they might tell you that its Homer and his dysfunctional clan. Ultimately, The Simpsons Movie boils down to familial bonds and reaches out to its extending relationships with its townsfolk. The graphic style of the movie will be familiar to everyone, but theres a new sleeker and more fluid approach that now involves more background animation as much as it does the foreground. Further reinvigorating the franchise is a new appreciation of the Simpsons family, with a creative incision into Homers advancing alienation from his wife and kids being addressed through the amplification of the characters proclivity for moronic whims and selfish inclinations. Its a theme that has been explored many times over in numerous episodes throughout the years but the decisive difference is that it works through the fishnet of film conventions to actually grow its characters personalities, and to impart new insights between them. The film rewards its longtime viewers but never punishes those that have remained unfamiliar with the protocols of the shows traditional quiescence.
Political lunacy and the ecumenical commentary of its bureaucratic agents get the full brunt of subtext and innuendos in a plot (and subplots) thats more than an excuse for the goofiness when it brims with tongue in cheek digs at the ineffectualness of the current regime. Government agencies from Washington hone in on Springfields newly attained status as an environmental Chernobyl, as the Simpsons are ousted from their town and left to fend outside their comfort zones. Its probably a minor miracle that a film so drunk on familial cords and values never submits to mushiness but thats pretty much down to the strength of the writers awareness of the material by hitting a sweet spot between real world potshots and the self-reflexive indication of its place in the pop culture pantheon by breaking the fourth wall just enough to clue us in on the joke.
In its focused state, The Simpsons Movie operates as an examination of a household held together by latent affection and as a social parable of a town in arrested development. Theres a good-natured sweetness in its tone that eschews the smugness and extravagance of most spoofs and grounds itself by constantly coming back to what has always mattered most in the series - family.