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Notes from the back row

Homer at last

You’re taking a big leap of faith any time you go see a movie based on a popular TV show (Remember the X-Files? ). Usually it’s just a studio cash grab and the movie ends up feeling like someone stapled a few regular episodes together and called it a film. But after 18 seasons, 23 Emmies, and 400 episodes here comes The Simpsons Movie.

Even though most every plot idea has been used and re-used, the writing geniuses at Camp Krusty somehow managed to secretly stitch together an 87-minute motion picture masterpiece. Or at least a bunch of good chuckles and some biting satire.

They weren’t letting any advance copies out for this one but as far as I can discern the plot revolves around pig shit — Homer gets a pet pig, dumps it’s “refuse” in the lake and ends up tipping the scales and making Springfield the most polluted town in the U.S., causing President Schwarzenegger to encase the entire city in a big plastic dome and assign a fascist-like enviro-protection agency prick named Russ Gargill to get things sorted out.

Meanwhile, the townspeople form an angry mob and come after Homer, Lisa falls in love, Bart causes mayhem and Marge wonders about her marriage. The family also ends up in Alaska at some point, looking to start anew. And Maggie finally says her first word, after nearly 20 years.

The Simpsons Movie , rated PG despite a nude scene, is not as politically subversive as some of the best episodes but it still brings plenty of that referential humour to the table and is able to cram a lot of good chuckles (and over 200 characters) into an hour and a half. Whether you’re a fan of the TV show or not, (many claim it peaked about seven years ago and has since lost all of its family-themed charm and much of its wit) you can’t deny that it’s one of the most influential shows ever (it paved the way for both South Park and Family Guy) and one of the most important pop cultural movements of the past two decades. This regular American family has made fun of everything from sushi chefs to Australians to all the religions on the planet. Even the show’s critics are routinely lambasted through the whines and ramblings of the Comic Book Guy character.

Creator Matt Groening once said, “We have an unspoken rule for the show — we can do humour as dark as we want to but the show itself is a celebration of family.” And this is true of the film as well, The Simpsons Movie is money well spent, although it’s going to be kind of weird watching your favorite TV show in a room full of other people.

If, however, you’re like my mother-in-law and don’t like the Simpsons (“That Bart is a mouthy little brat!”) then your only other new-release option is No Reservations , a not-that-great romantic comedy starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as a NYC chef whose lonely, workaholic life takes a boot to the ass when her sister dies and wills her Zoe, a nine-year-old girl ( Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin.) Enter Nick (Aaron Eckhart,) a sous-chef as sweet as a mouthful of icing sugar who won’t take Kate’s job but will certainly grab a hold of her heart. It’s all quite fairy tale-esque and, in my view, dumb. And not funny-dumb, like Homer Simpson, just dumb. (Although, speaking of family, the film’s message that a working woman will never be truly happy unless she’s saddled with a man, a child, and kept close to the kitchen can make for some nice arguments and domestic disputes.)

AT VILLAGE 8 July 27-Aug. 2: The Simpsons Movie; No Reservations; I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry; Harry Potter; Die Hard; Hairspray; Transformers; Ratatouille.