The Simpson's Take on Big Government

"The Simpsons Movie," a spin off of the long running TV series, debuted this past week earning a robust $74 million for 20th Century Fox.  Taking the number one slot at the box office, The Simpsons made $50 million more than runner up "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." 

The film capitalizes on the television program’s foundation: it manages to keep the frenetic pace of the show and maintains its unsubtle but funny satire on big government, environmental alarmists, skeptics and pretty much anyone else within the range of its writers’ jokes. "The Simpsons Movie" is similar to the show’s  90s run when it was criticized for redefining the American family. You can’t watch "The Simpsons Movie" without thinking of the great Reagan quote: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’" The movie, like the show, makes a point of showing just how inept the government can be. A film so rich in anti- government rhetoric, it could be a motivational video at the Libertarian Cato Institute.

Through poking fun of the EPA and the ‘dubious’ motives of big government projects, the film succeeds in turning the US government into 80 minutes of satire. (A time standard that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid beat almost daily, but what they do is less complicated than the creativity needed to make a movie.)

Success is not new to the Simpsons franchise. According to Movie Database IMDb, The concept for the Simpsons was derived from  30 second segments aired between sketches on the ‘Tracy Ullman Show’. The Simpsons TV series debuted with little fanfare in 1989. The show, set in fictional “Springfield,” revolves around the outlandish lives of the town’s most novel family, the Simpsons.

The Simpson clan is (mis)led  by father Homer — A middle aged, self absorbed oaf. Homer is an animated cross between Norm Peterson("Cheers") and Al Bundy ( "Married With Children.") His wife Marge, with her iconic elongated blue afro hair does her best to keep order in a dysfunctional home. Complicating matters is the couple’s son Bart. A rambunctious youth, Bart has a knack for getting into trouble.  Bart’s juvenile behavior is offset by Lisa, Bart’s studious and idealistic younger sister. The family is rounded off by Maggie, the often-forgotten baby.

Through the show’s decade plus run, the characters have never aged and the story line has never spoiled. The show has become a money making machine for 20th Century Fox  through steady ratings and a successful merchandising campaign.  The Simpsons have their own clothing line, action figures, board game, trading cards and a soon to be built Simpsons roller coaster in Universal Studies Orlando.  To promote the launch of the movie, a dozen 7- Eleven stores were transformed into replicas of Springfield’s iconic Kwik-E-Mart where consumers can purchase Simpsons-related products such as “ Buzz Cola, "Krusty-O" cereal, "Pink Movie" doughnuts.

Earning over 20 Emmy Awards, the show is also a critical success. Time Magazine even called "The Simpsons" the 20th Century’s  best television series.  The family also received Presidential criticism when then President George H.W Bush remarked “"We’re going to strengthen the American family to make them more like The Waltons  and less like the Simpsons." No stranger to controversy, the Simpsons have been willing to address the issues of the day with a sharp witted, satrical tounge that has enraged and entertained Americans for a more than a decade.

The movie was as willing to engage in the tough issues facing the nation as the TV show.  The opening scene features a Al Goresque charity concert set to beg Springfield residents to become more environmentally friendly.  Lisa then decides to have a town hall meeting titled “An  Irritating Truth”  where she presents the "facts" about global warming and is subsequently booed off the stage. 

The plot thickens when Homer causes an environmental disaster in the town’s lake. The n,“ President Arnold Schwarzenegger”  decides to respond to the environmental "calamity"  by inclosing Springfield in a giant dome. 

President Schwarzenegger is encouraged by his EPA Director played by the voice of Albert Brooks, who admits “ I do own the company that owns the dome but that’s besides the point.”  This serves as a pungent attack on government spending which is likely to please Ron Paul supporters.

The Government’s actions only exacerbate the problem leading Homer on a quest to save his beloved Springfield.  The film takes on the Patriot Act in a scene showing the government spying on the Simpsons who are in attempting to get back to Springfield. The Simpsons are caught by the government which is always listening but shocked to finally catch someone they are looking for. 

"The Simpsons" franchise has been anything but inept in delivering a product rich in imagination and laughs.  According to Yahoo Movies, the film received a solid B from America’s movie critics. Regular movie viewers at Yahoo were kinder, giving the movie a B plus. All in all, I’d give it a B plus as well.  See it.