Simpson Mania

I caught The Simpsons Movie last night at one of the local multiplexes, and while I enjoyed it well enough, it was only the second best animated feature I saw this weekend. The movie was consistently funny, with some relatively barbed political and media commentary, especially the jokes about an oblivious President Schwarzenegger being manipulated by an over-zealous EPA agent. But I rarely got the sense that the film was somehow “bigger” than the series or that I was seeing anything terribly new. To some extent, I think Karina is right to say that it’s difficult to say anything new about The Simpsons (with the exception of Jonathan Gray’s Watching with The Simpsons, an excellent book that uses the show to offer a useful way of thinking about parody and intertextuality).

But I think the somewhat unexpected box office success of The Simpsons Movie raises some interesting questions about film marketing and promotion. I probably could have guessed that Fox was low-balling in predicting that the film would do $30-40 million in its opening weekend, but I’m still fascinated that a series that has been running for 19 years, a series that has openly acknowledged its creative exhaustion in some episodes, could score such a huge opening weekend. Certainly the movie’s cross-generational, critic-proof appeal helps (after all, audiences have been watching the show for nearly 20 years), but I also think the online promotion of the movie helped quite a bit–notice all of the Simpsons avatars all over the web. But no matter what happens, it’s clear that the film has helped revitalize the franchise, keeping the show alive for several more seasons and, as Maggie suggests in her one-word post-credits cameo (“sequel!”), setting the stage for future Simpson movies.

In this sense, to answer Karina’s implied question, there may be very little new to say about the content of The Simpsons, whether on big screen or small (A.O. Scott’s review amounts to little more than a litany of some of the film’s best gags, a point he openly acknowledges), but I think the success of the movie has raised some interesting questions about the show’s ability to move across so many different platforms so successfully.

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