DVD Release Date:  December 18, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: July 27, 2007
Rating: PG-13 (for irreverent humor throughout)
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 87 min.
Director: David Silverman
Actors: Voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Albert Brooks, Joe Mantegna

A feature-length movie based on the animated TV series, The Simpsons Movie includes all the antics, both positive and negative, that those familiar with the show expect. Bad-boy Bart uses the word “hell,” ignorant father Homer unintentionally upsets his wife Marge, daughter Lisa engages in sanctimonious door-to-door environmental activism, and the entire family attends church for all the wrong reasons. But the movie ups the ante with certain excesses that push the film into “PG-13” territory: Marge exclaims, “godd—n” and Grandpa Simpson flops around the church floor while prophesying.

Such antics will prove too much for some Christian fans of the show, while others may see them, in context, as meaningful satire. Both camps will find plenty to laugh at—or plenty to be offended by—depending on their tolerance for The Simpsons’ stock blend of sarcasm, satire and skewering of political correctness.

That’s the same tightwire the show has always walked. Many Christians have had a love/hate relationship with the pop-culture phenomenon since it debuted in the late 1980s. Its very first full-length episode—a Christmas-themed story about Homer being denied a Christmas bonus by his evil boss, Mr. Burns, then losing at the dog track while trying to win money to buy presents for his children—introduced the back-talking Bart, his philosophical sister Lisa, baby Maggie and the husband-wife team of Homer and Marge. The ending was heartwarming and family friendly, and the episode’s balance of childhood sass and parental patience set a strong precedent that subsequent episodes of the program only infrequently recaptured. Yet despite some ups and downs, The Simpsons continues to air on the FOX network, and has become one of the longest-running situation comedies in TV history.

Now comes the first feature film, running about four times as long as a regular TV episode. Can the feature sustain a plotline throughout the running time? Not really, but fans will excuse the careening storyline in exchange for frequent laughs. On that score, the movie delivers.

The first half hour is the strongest portion of the film. A trademark “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoon, with ultra-violent high jinks, kicks things off before the main “plot,” such as it is, unfolds. It goes something like this.

The Simpson family attends a church service in their hometown of Springfield (“Thou Shalt Turn Off Thy Cell Phone,” reads a sign outside the building). When Grandpa Simpson flops around on the floor like a chicken, uttering nonsense words, Marge believes them to be prophetic. She calls Grandpa’s episode a “genuine religious experience,” and has her belief validated through a series of actions involving her family and community.

And what would those be? Homer adopts a pig and keeps the pig’s waste in a silo. He dumps the full silo into Lake Springfield. The consequences are extreme, bringing down the wrath of the Environmental Protection Agency and its head, Russ Cargill, with the permission of President Schwarzenegger. Together, they agree to place a giant dome over Springfield to contain further outbreak of environmental havoc.

The Simpsons find their way outside of the dome, but the movie has a hard time knowing where to go thereafter. The screenwriters send the family to Alaska, where things deteriorate between Homer and Marge. Meanwhile, Bart finds solace from another father figure—Ned Flanders—while Lisa pines for a young man trapped inside the domed town.