Last week I was invited to see a special preview screening of The Simpsons Movie at a theatre in Portland in Oregon . I’ve been keeping a close eye on your site since then, and I can’t believe no one else who was there has popped up here with a review, so I thought I would be the first. We were assured that we were the first in the world to see it, so this should be the first feedback for the movie as a whole. Makes me so proud. Firstly, why Portland of all places for a world’s first preview, you may ask ? Well, the reason is because of Mr. Groening himself. He went to the University of Oregon , and based the town the Simpsons live in on Portland itself, naming it after Springfield , Oregon which is a couple of hours south of the city. All this seemingly supported by the fact that the preview was held in Portland , but also that Mr. Groening (and I’m pretty damn sure James L. Brooks) attended the screening. The film in its current form is massively unfinished; with I would guess around 30% of the film in the final hi-def, super sharp animation. The rest was divided between hand drawn storyboards, and low res, choppy colour animation. The voice soundtrack was complete, but the musical score wasn’t. All this probably means that, even if unchanged, the final print will maintain it’s pacing, excitement and charm a little better than the version we saw, as 2 or 3 hand drawn storyboards don’t quite manage to convey all of the things which makes The Simpsons so special. We did get a pretty good idea of what to expect though, and where the film makers are going with this big screen version. I’d like to say at this point that I am a pretty big Simpsons fan. I’ve been almost consistently watching since the first episode, and while I agree with the consensus opinion (that the show has dropped off in quality a little in recent years) there is not an episode of The Simpsons which isn’t worth half an hour of my life. I believe that The Simpsons is one of, if not the most significant comedy of my lifetime, spanning genres, comedy styles and age groups. So while I am not an obsessive fan boy, I do recognise and appreciate it’s greatness. So what did I, a Simpsons appreciator of long standing, think of the movie ? It’s excellent. Is it mind blowingly awesome ? No, not quite. Almost, but not quite. At least not in it’s current form. In deference to the multi-page non-disclosure agreement I was forced to sign before being let in (and also of course to keep this free of spoilers), I am going to avoid being too specific in this review, and instead give my overall impressions of the film, so you wont get quotes, descriptions of scenes or anything which I feel might compromise the completion of the filmmaking process. However, I’ll still try to make this write-up worthwhile. The first thing to say is, it’s too short. I didn’t time it exactly, but the movie is something like an hour and a quarter in length. It’s over in a heartbeat. Because (I would guess) of this short running time we come up against the first of the films little problems… Not nearly enough screen time is given to any one of the multitude of surrounding characters. Not one of them. We have the main Simpsons family taking centre stage, and a couple of new characters to be introduced to, but aside from that any of the other people who populate Springfield are reduced to one line (or at least sub-5 second) cameos. I feel they have wasted their best resource by simply omitting them. The trailers assertion that ‘the gangs all here’ is pretty misleading, since with a couple of exceptions (who get a few short minutes each) we don’t get to spend any time with any of the surrounding cast. It’s a crying shame. The easiest way to describe the film is by way of it’s three acts. They roughly split up into; the first half hour, the second half hour, and the final quarter hour-ish of climax. The first half hour of the Simpsons movie is hysterical genius. It’s classic. It’s old school. It’s violent. It’s slapstick. It’s clever. It’s everything you could ever want it to be. There’s a gag every couple of seconds (sometimes several going on in the background), and pretty much all of them hit the mark with confidence and accuracy. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages (definitely not since Hot Fuzz). Seriously. My head almost fell off. It’s here we see scenes like Homer fixing his roof with Bart from the most recent trailer. It’s day to day life stuff, and is The Simpsons at it’s best. The ‘plot’ of this first act reflects back to several classic episodes, and puts the family in situations that are familiar to all of us. Here we do of course meet all our favourite characters (albeit, as I said, too briefly), and get some marvellously funny set pieces. You might even say that the first act of the Simpsons movie is the Best. Episode. Ever. (sorry). The second half hour is a problem. Here we are attempting to further the plot, and add some conflict and exposition. It’s not that it’s bad, just that it isn’t really as good. The gag rate drops right off, and (shockingly for such a short movie) it feels a little slow. There’s some good moments in there of course, but it just seems to lose it’s zap and it’s zing. Here we could have done with branching off from the main story line and returning to perhaps some of the supporting characters for some laughs, some fun-poking, and some humour for humour’s sake. Padding if you will. There is one stand out scene in this middle section which is utterly inspired, and where you get to see Bart at his comedy best, but even if I wanted to describe it I couldn’t do so and maintain the humour. You’ll just have to go see it wontcha? The final short act, where the climax is played out, and everyone learns a valuable lesson, is exciting, clever and extremely satisfying. It definitely ends well, if a little abruptly. It all wraps up pretty neatly, and the animation here is superb, mixing high quality 2D and 3D to outstanding effect. To ensure they get a brief mention, the voice acting is typically faultless, and the music was adequate – even though unfinished. People keep asking me: “so is it any good, or is it just like a longer episode?”. I say, if you pick some of the truly classic episodes, then a longer version is exactly what we wanted. What we got feels like they weren’t quite sure how to create a 90 minute episode, so they did one episode for comedy, one for plot, and one for the ending. I say we got three episodes back to back, and they all feel slightly different. Non of this of course means that the movie is bad. It isn’t. It’s The Simpsons. It’s funny, charming, exciting, familiar and is peppered with delightfully loving references to all our favourite events in the Simpsons family history (one in particular will have you whooping with joy in your seat if you’re a Simpsons fan). I’d recommend the movie, yes - in its current state, to anyone who enjoys watching the show, and anyone who enjoys a laugh in general. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am looking forward to seeing it again. I just hope, somewhere in the back of my mind, that they read and pay attention to my comment card, and fill out the middle section with some more snap, crackle and pop. If they do, they could have an all time classic on their hands, which sadly the version I saw falls ever so slightly short of.