‘The Simpsons Movie’ and ‘Hot Rod’: Expect the unexpected

Thu, 08/02/2007 - 12:52pm
By: Michael Boylan

I am a huge fan of “The Simpsons.” I mean, really big, like only missed one first run episode of the show in my life big. Sometimes I find myself slipping into Homer-isms or quoting Ralph Wiggum during awkward silences. It is easily my favorite television show of all time and the time I got to meet creator Matt Groening (who gave me an autograph and drew a picture of Homer) is on my list of top 10 moments in my life.

So I was psyched to see “The Simpsons Movie” and I left amused, but a little disappointed. There are plenty of laughs to make seeing the film worth the price of admission, but it was lacking something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on right away. It had the same look, feel and sound of a great episode of “The Simpsons,” but it was missing what made the show so great - the characters that make up the fictional town of Springfield. They were in the background of a lot of scenes, but only a few of them got lines of dialogue and for big fans of the show, this is a bit of a travesty. Seriously, 30 seconds with Mr. Burns? What did Apu have, one line?

The show may have started as a family centric animated sitcom (and the family is still the main draw), but the people that populate Springfield are what made the show a classic. Springfield is us and by giving the audience too much of Albert Brooks as EPA honcho Russ Cargill (oh, what I would have given for a reprise of his famous Scorpio role), other characters are pushed aside.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the movie and chances are you will too, but I look at it this way: the “South Park” movie is like the best episode of “South Park” ever, but “The Simpsons Movie” is just a longer episode. It’s good, but it’s no “Bart Gets An Elephant.”

As for “Hot Rod,” I expected nothing and got an extremely rewarding and satisfying comedy. It has huge laughs, especially considering its peculiar sense of humor and relatively low wattage cast. Andy Samberg plays a wannabe stuntman living at home with his mom and stepdad, whom he hates. When the stepdad appears to be dying before Rod can best him in a fight, which in their twisted world means that he isn’t a man, Rod vows to raise the money necessary for the stepdad’s surgery, so that he can beat him up once he is better.

It might be the stupidest plot of a movie not involving a bikini ray, but Samberg and his friends pull it off. The film is directed by Samberg’s former sketch comedy compadre Akiva Schaffer and co-stars their other sketch comedy bud Jorma Taccone. They obviously know each others’ strengths and a lot of what they do in this film works. With just one major motion picture under his belt, Samberg is among the top half of SNL stars with movies. I realize that even “Gigli” is better than “It’s Pat: The Movie,” but Samberg has a charm and style that should bring him more movie roles.

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