01
Jul
10

More Friends, More Allies, More I Say!

The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show3

“You kids don’t know what you want!  That’s why you’re still kids, cause you’re stupid!  Just tell me what’s wrong with the freakin’ show!” – Roger Meyers Jr. 

I just did something I didn’t think I’d ever do: put The Simpsons Movie back on my Netflix queue.  Prior to now, I’ve seen it two and a half times.  The first was in the theater, and I was disappointed.  The second was a few days later when, out of respect for one of the few genuinely clever jokes, I downloaded it illegally and watched it with a couple of other real Simpsons fans (Mad Jon included).  They were about as disappointed as I was.  The half time was when I got it from Netflix shortly after it came out on DVD and tried to give it a second chance.  I turned it off.  Twice, it turns out, was more than enough. 

What caused me to want to wade back in was this two year old piece from Bob Mackey (not the original):

Listening to the commentary, it wasn’t shocking to hear current showrunner and head writer Al Jean explicitly state, "We made this movie for people who don’t watch the show," nor was I surprised when the discussion of every joke and scene eventually led to a discussion of said joke/scene’s effect on test audiences (and in some cases, which specific test audience liked or didn’t like certain things). Most filmmakers despise the idea of test audiences, as they often force movies to be dumbed down for the lowest common denominator; on The Simpsons Movie, however, the writers embraced the idea of the test audience.   

The commentary discussion made the writers’ relationship with test audiences sound like an elaborate courtship ritual: they would change joke after joke after joke until test audiences stopped thinking things were "too scary," or when certain jokes were too subtle to make anyone laugh. And from the obscenely self-congratulatory tone of the commentary, it didn’t seem like the writers cared that they had to rewrite jokes multiple times–often getting rid of funnier alternatives–in order to win the favor of fickle test audiences. Oh, and surprise, surprise; test audiences laughed the hardest at pain jokes, which explains why the movie is full of so many uncreative, unfunny instances of "Man fall down… funny."

Prior to reading those paragraphs of horror, I had no interest in ever seeing the movie again.  But Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry, and now I have no choice but to document the atrocities.  It ought to be up sometime next week. 

Mackey, who writes under the screen name bobservo (I love his brother Tom), was kind enough to literally flatter us with a link.  In that post he adds further weight to the idea that the continued production of Zombie Simpsons is primarily motivated by merchandising dollars:

I’ve always held a somewhat reasonable conspiracy theory that his return to the show in 2001 was for the sole purpose of making The Simpsons "softer" and more marketable. After all, the beginning of the last decade marked the second big boom of Simpsons merchandise (I worked in retail at the time and we were absolutely flooded with Simpsons crap), a trend that hadn’t been seen since the early 90s — which was parodied by the show itself.

I’ve always had the suspicion that there was a second wave of crappy merchandise around the time the show really started going to hell; it’s nice to have a little supporting testimony.  When the show was very young you’d see t-shirts and there were a couple of video games, but it wasn’t until the late 90s/early 00s that you began seeing them aggressively move into the tchotchke/underwear/everything markets.  I have no sales data to back that up, it’s just the impression that I got as an American of desirable demographic traits. 

Finally, not that there’s any doubt after the above, but Bob’s head is in the right place:

This movie is not for the Simpsons fan. Those looking for a last gleam of life in the eyes of this zombielike franchise should look elsewhere. The greater your degree of Simpsons fanaticism, the more you will hate The Simpsons Movie. It’s the culmination of all the recent seasons’ flaws that we Comic Book Guys like to point out: lazy writing, pandering, and a supreme feeling of “Eh, it’s good enough.”

And to makes things worse, The Simpsons Movie takes these flaws and adds a whole lot of dumb humor. Homer getting hurt can be funny, but not when it happens every 30 seconds over the course of an hour and a half.

Tee-hee, “zombielike”. 


7 Responses to “More Friends, More Allies, More I Say!”


  1. 1 Lovejoy Fan
    1 July 2010 at 5:26 pm

    “The commentary discussion made the writers’ relationship with test audiences sound like an elaborate courtship ritual: they would change joke after joke after joke until test audiences stopped thinking things were “too scary,” or when certain jokes were too subtle to make anyone laugh. And from the obscenely self-congratulatory tone of the commentary, it didn’t seem like the writers cared that they had to rewrite jokes multiple times–often getting rid of funnier alternatives–in order to win the favor of fickle test audiences.”

    Oh, doesn’t that explain a lot.
    I wasn’t that impressed with the movie, mostly for the reasons already mentioned but also because I wished they’d spent more time in Springfield itself, rather than jetting off to Alaska. Oh, and I still haven’t forgiven them for replacing Lovejoy’s “money shot” scene from the trailer with that “pregnancy pants” joke (I might have, if it didn’t seem to reflect the tone of Zombie Simpsons, and if they had actually bothered to put Lovejoy’s scene on the DVD).

  2. 1 July 2010 at 5:51 pm

    I can kind of see the simpsons movie producers’ logic. When you watch television you’re usually watching by yourself or a small group of friends/family members. When nobody laughs at a joke it’s no big deal. But when you’re in a theater with a bunch of people and nobody’s laughing at a comedy movie it’s totally awkward. The bad jokes become even worse.

  3. 3 Stephen
    1 July 2010 at 9:03 pm

    What was the genuinely clever joke?

  4. 4 Shane
    1 July 2010 at 11:45 pm

    A word of warning about the commentary: its longer than the actual movie as they pause it at some points to keep on talking, notably for a 5-10 minute pause in the middle.

  5. 5 Charlie Sweatpants
    2 July 2010 at 8:23 am

    “What was the genuinely clever joke?” – The chalkboard gag was something like “I will not illegally download this movie.” I thought that was clever.

    “A word of warning about the commentary: its longer than the actual movie as they pause it at some points to keep on talking, notably for a 5-10 minute pause in the middle.” – That sounds unpleasant, but it’s too late now. Netflix lists it as “Shipping Today”, so I should have most of the Fourth of July weekend to get through it.

    • 6 Mad Jon
      2 July 2010 at 1:32 pm

      You are a trooper Charlie. This weekend I will spend 2 hours gently poking myself in the ribs with a unsharpened pencil to honor your sacrifice.


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