"I can't believe we're paying for something we get for free on TV," declares a disgruntled Homer Simpson (voice of Dan Castellaneta) from the audience of a big-screen "Itchy and Scratchy" feature. Well, why not? For your money you get a supersized episode of the long-running show, complete with a government conspiracy, a cute pig, a not-so-cute multi-eyed toxic rabbit monster, celebrity voice cameos, the obligatory swipe at Fox television (not to mention Disney and Halliburton), and a glimpse of Bart's doodle when Homer dares him to skateboard through town in the nude.
It's business as usual in Springfield, whose lake is so polluted that it dissolves metal, dumping Green Day (Billie Joe Armstrong, Frank Edwin Wright III and Michael Pritchard) in the noxious drink during an environmental-awareness concert. Earnest Lisa (Yeardley Smith) loses her heart to fellow activist Colin (Tress MacNeille) while trying to raise support for a Lake Springfield cleanup campaign, Grampa (Dan Castellaneta) has a cryptic apocalyptic vision at church and Marge (Julie Kavner) tries to decipher it, and oblivious Homer (Castellaneta) dotes on a little piggy he saved from certain death. Neglected Bart (Nancy Cartwright), more than a little peeved at Homer after the humiliating naked-boarding incident, decides he'd rather be Bible-thumping Ned Flanders' (Harry Shearer) son. All this before Homer's idiocy brings Springfield to the attention of megalomaniacal Environmental Protection Agency head Russ Cargill (Albert Brooks), who convinces President Schwarzenegger (Shearer) to seal the toxic town under an impenetrable plastic dome. The Simpsons escape (leave it to baby Maggie to beat the dome!) after a torch-wielding mob comes for Homer, but after things go all Lord of the Flies, Homer is forced to choose between the selfish pursuit of instant gratification and his conscience. D'oh!
The movie occasionally drags, even at a modest 86 minutes, and after 400 episodes it's hard to recapture the early seasons' startling bite. But the throwaway gags fans live for are there: Green Day's barge-stage sinking a la Titanic while they play "Nearer My God, to Thee"; President Schwarzenegger's avowal that he was elected to "lead, not read"; the smashed ambulance that's apparently been sitting around Springfield Gorge since the second-season episode "Bart the Daredevil." The nude skateboarding sequence is a brilliant riff on the extended cover-Austin's-danger-zone gag that concludes AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY (1997), and best of all, though the Simpson clan is 18 years older, they're not one bit wiser. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh