Judge Dennis Prince has unlocked the mystery behind this exclusive high-definition release: yellow on Blu makes for loads of green! Get it?
Our review of The Simpsons Movie, published December 11th, 2007, is also available.
"If cartoons were meant for adults, they'd put them on prime time."—Lisa Simpson
In a time when blockbuster movie trailers start with the narration of, "in a time when…," here comes a truly unique cinematic experience, something never before seen on the big screen; it is on the small screen, though, week in and week out and has been for nearly two decades. OK, but with advances in animation technology that can render the most stunning visuals ever beheld, here's a compelling production that delivers an incredible amount of, well, yellow with bold black outlines, too. Um, then in an era where home entertainment dares to rival the experience of the grandest of legendary movie theaters, here's a breakthrough medium that delivers The Simpsons Movie in high-definition, even though it costs about three times as much as a movie ticket. Yeah, but at least this disc is, uh, shinier, smoother, and…uh…rounder than all those other discs out there.
Facts of the Case
If you've never heard of Springfield or the reigning first family of Fox TV, well then you're probably not from around here. And if you're not from around here, then you'll probably never understand that The Simpsons has become the longest-running prime-time situation comedy of all time. And if you don't know what a situation comedy is, then you probably have never heard of TV. And if you've never heard of TV, that's just fine and dandy because this is a movie! Woo hoo! Well, you'll need a TV to watch this movie, though. That's right, it's a "movie" but it plays on a TV. That's right, you don't have to go outside and go to a crowded movie theater because you can watch this movie at home. All you need is a TV. Oh, but it has to be one of those high-definition TVs that are really wide and kind of expensive, but it'll look great once you have this sort of TV. Oh, and you need a special Blu-player thingy that plays these special Blu discs, even though they're silver just like all the others but they call them Blu so they can sell you a new player that's probably more expensive than the new TV you just bought. But that's all you need, and you don't have to pay those ridiculous prices for movie theater popcorn and soda and Raisinettes. Isn't America great, even though this Blu thing comes from Japan?
Anyway, once you have all that, you can watch this movie at home and soon you'll learn that Homer Simpson, head of the Simpson family, is a loving soul who only wants the best for his wife, Marge, son Bart, and daughters Lisa and Maggie. Even though his uncontrollable desire for free pink-frosted donuts has resulted in Springfield becoming a governmental target for complete and total annihilation, this is the sort of thing that sometimes happens to fathers as they show their love for their families. It's gonna take a lot of fast action and fancy cartooning to save the day, but with the prospect of a highly lucrative sequel already looming, you can bet everything's going to be just fine.
So here's one for all you Einsteins out there: if The Simpsons TV show is really on its last legs—now in its 19th season on Fox—then how is it that this movie takes in nearly half a billion dollars in ticket sales? Hmm—how does that happen Mr. Smarty-Movie Analyst who never sat next to Siskel or Ebert or Roeper? It happens because everything else in the movie theaters is crap and all people really want to see is what they watch on TV for free. Or…something like that; there's probably some psychoanalytical name for it and it's incurable or something. But The Simpsons is not dead. Hello…? They just made a movie, remember?
Sure, there was plenty of insider gossip that a movie has been in the works for over ten years, juicy red carpet chatter from the uninvolved many who pointed to creator Matt Groening being unable to get a really good script off the ground so he kept doing TV episodes until a great idea came along—it just took about 250 episodes to find the right one but, boy, it was worth the wait.
Truthfully, it was worth the wait, especially to Groening, Fox, and all the nice shareholders. Since these days of Internet hype and message forums and unsubstantiated rumors and information leaks make for the best publicity that high-paid people in suits can't seem to think up, The Simpsons Movie was a mega-hit before a single frame flickered on a theater screen. The pink-frosted donut was a good idea, though. But the film was a huge hit worldwide and everyone's getting rich(er). As for the story, it has plenty of heart, brought on, once again, by Springfield's most dysfunctional family struggling against all odds—well, enduring Homer, that is—and proving, once again, that family love can conquer all. For movie lovers and Simpsons fans, it's a plot that is faithful to the TV series and it makes good use of the grandness of the big screen—mainly because you can fit more people on a wider screen and it can also include some edgy material that people love only if they get to pay to see it (they'd go insane if they got all these cultural zings and animated full frontal male nudity on TV for free, right?). The best news is that, even after nineteen years, the entire cast of characters still looks great, none aging much at all and all seemingly well capable of remembering their lines and containing their biological functions until after the director yells "cut." It's a fun film that seems pretty much like a longer version of the TV show, mainly because it has all the same characters, all drawn the same way as we're used to seeing. But, hey, why break it if it doesn't need fixing…or something like that.
OK, so let's get serious for a few minutes now because it's time to dig into the technical stuff in this new high-definition disc. First, it's only available on Blu-ray disc and not on that other HD format so already it looks like the money you spent on the Blu player thing was a smart choice, unless this format war deal ends in a stalemate or the Blu thing loses; either way the movie will get released on the red-boxed format, too, at which time you'll probably have to buy more equipment. It's good for the country, though, so just say, "no payments until 2009," and enjoy. But, if you want to watch The Simpsons Movie in high-definition today, then it's the Blu way or no way. Anyway, the transfer is encoded in full 1080p / AVC MPEG-4 (sounds expensive, right?) and it's framed at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Never before has The Simpsons been presented in widescreen and the animators found they needed to fill in the sides and cover up all the coffee rings and donut stains that usually got cropped out for TV. The image quality is crisp and clean, with great color saturation (mostly yellow) and without a hint of artifacting of any sort. The source material is spotless and, overall, the image quality is top tier. At this point, though, some of the other HD brainiacs would jump around calling this spotless and practically perfect presentation "reference quality"—but it's a cartoon! How can a two-dimensional animated feature that doesn't include a whole bunch of subtle rendering be considered "reference quality?" It looks good, sure, but better than current high-def champs Casino Royale, Spider-Man 3, or Ratatouille? Yes, it looks great but it's certainly not proof of the format's capabilities. We'll just note here that it looks really clean and vibrant, then, and probably good enough to sell an expanded edition release to you within three months.
Then there's the audio stuff. Well, you've never heard The Simpsons sound this good, mainly because they've never presented it in anything but Stereo Surround on TV. This time, though, you'll find a great DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track which uses about as many words to describe as you have speakers in your impressive home theater setup (and if you don't have one of these, you probably need to go shopping again). The track sounds very full, though, with a nicely balanced use of the entire soundstage and excellent imaging across the channels. The low end is quite robust, when appropriate, and seals the deal well.
As for extras, well this is where we seem to get a half-eaten donut for all of our outlay. There are two very good commentaries, one with the creators, producers, and a couple of actors (Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith), and the other with the director and more producers. There's plenty to learn from these and it's fun to watch the team on the first track actually stop time (well, they pause the movie, anyway) as they fully discuss a key plot change at length. Next up are a few minutes of deleted scenes and a slightly altered ending that don't add up to much beyond their 5-minute run time. In "Special Stuff," there are but a few more minutes of quickies like Homer providing the opening monologue for The Tonight Show plus Homer and the rest of the family hosting and judging an excerpt from American Idol. Last up are a bunch of theatrical trailers—five in all—that are fun but don't add up to making a suitable collection of "extra goodies." If you like Easter eggs, there are several character design reviews that are easily found within the disc's main menu (just use the left/right arrow buttons a lot) plus a jab at the THX trailer found only if you follow the donut up to the top on the Audio Setup menu.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Just one more point regarding the release of this movie on Blu-ray: it seems sort of unnecessary. With the DVD edition sporting a similarly clean transfer that looks just dandy on an upscaling DVD player, there's not much to be gained by going high-def with this film given its production style. Sure, it's fine for bragging about, taunting the HD DVD people with it or something, but there's not too much more to be gained here, unless you're a truly patriotic American who wants to do everything to uphold the capitalistic culture with all the might your revolving credit account can muster.
And so, in closing, it's apparent that America owes a great deal of gratitude to The Simpsons Movie, the film that proves it's good for the economy since it has motivated regular citizens to spend so much money to see a TV show somewhere besides their living room. With it available now on Blu-ray in dazzling high-definition, it again bolsters our American way by inspiring us to spend even more money on equipment that will deliver the best sights and sounds despite the fact that the technology's longevity is in question. So what because if the Blu thing doesn't catch on, then we have an opportunity to go out and buy a bunch more stuff, right?
Sort of makes you proud of this great country, doesn't it?
Although this film is rife with irreverent jabs at government, interracial tensions, sexual ambiguities, and unapologetic ploys for your hard-earned money, you just can't help but love it, can you? And if you think you'll ever get that Spider-Pig song out of your head, forget it.
Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a Spider-Pig does.
Court un-journed! Woo hoo!
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