I'm not going to get into many details, just a few thoughts on why this movie is a bright spot in the Simpsons franchise -
- It has what the show has lacked for a very long time - a solid emotional core. Think "Bart vs. Lisa" or almost any 1st season episode. Shows that had a heart without being sappy. (The movie at times pushes the limits, but manages not to go overboard).
- The movie doesn't try and do too much. This really is an extended Simpsons episode (a good one). Yes, they throw jokes in there that say we know this a movie, but plot-wise it stays very true to the Simpsons format.
- It has continuous broad and subtle satire that mostly hits its mark. There were a number of things that I was surprised weren't get laughs in the theater and I came to the conclusion that it was a young audience - Saturday afternoon and a ton of families. Homer's antics were getting tons of laughs, but some of the more current affairs related jokes were going over people's heads.
- They didn't take license to be vulgar. Unlike the consistently obscene direct-to-DVD Family Guy movie, The Simpsons movie makes only gentle, infrequent use of it's PG-13 rating. With one or two exceptions, it may even be more suitable for kids than your average Simpsons episode these days.
- While there were a number of plot points that were reminiscent of past Simpsons plots, there was only one instance where I really thought they were lingering too long on a plot element that had been done before (see "The Mysterious Voyage of Homer")
- Sideshow Bob. Maybe they're holding out for a Sideshow Bob centered sequel?
- Guest stars. There are 2 1/2 guest stars. I expected a lot more.
What kills me, is that Pixar has this almost unblemished (overlooking "Cars") track record of superb CGI cartoon movies (I can't even bring myself to refer to them as "kids'" movies). The stories are incredibly unique and well written, and appeal to both adults and kids, and almost completely avoid pop culture references and bodily function humor. Why are the other studios not taking note of this? Why do they keep putting out Shrek and other regurgitated crap? It seems to me a simple formula - imaginative, well written stories and good looking animation. You don't even need celebrity voices (Pixar does make extensive use of celebrity voices, but they're beside the point - they invite actors to come in an act out a character that was created for the story - not an animated version of themselves). I couldn't identify a single voice in Ratatouille, which is the way it should be.
In 30 years, Pixar movies will still be around (okay, even if they weren't from Disney, which guarantees that they will be re-released every 5 - 10 years to infinity and beyond). If Disney would let them, you'd be seeing Criterion editions of these films. With any luck, Shrek will just be a disgusting green pop-culture side note on VH1's "I Love the 00's"