My two midnight screenings this summer couldn't have been more different.
For "Spider-Man 3," there were three (or maybe four) packed theaters, but the energy got sucked out of each by that tepid fare after no more than a half hour.
For "The Simpsons Movie," however, there were maybe 100 people spread out in one theater, and judging from the (often too) loud laughter I heard throughout, everyone left with a smile on their face. Or at least I'm sure I did.
My biggest beef and even bigger point of praise for "The Simpsons Movie" is that it's all so terribly familiar. Given how all the advance details were kept to a minimum, I was afraid we would be getting a bloated monster packed with way too many guest voices and way too epic a plot.
Thankfully, however, the movie just plays out like an extended "Simpsons" episode, albeit one from way back when the show was still fresh and at least a little subversive (but, was it ever really all that edgy? How in the world did George H.W. Bush ever get into such a huff over such a family-friendly show?) But I digress ...
Without giving anything away, I can tell you that Lisa wants to save the Earth, Bart wants to be a Flanders, Homer almost brings about the end of the world and Marge frets about it an awful lot. So, what would make you want to see it? Well, the jokes fly faster and hit their targets more often than the TV show has in many, many years.
Even if you've seen every possible advance clip for this one, and therefore had some choice gags spoiled (I really wish, for example, that I hadn't known about Spider-Pig going in), there's still plenty to surprise. And what I appreciate about "The Simpsons" on TV and here is that there are almost as many visual gags as there are spoken-out-loud ones, so you're rewarded for paying close attention.
My favorite moment, if I can offer a mild spoiler, comes after Marge has had enough and left Homer to fend for himself. Before they can be reunited, of course, he has to have an epiphany, but the five minutes in which he has it here are just a visual wonder (and, for me at least, a reminder of the great "Two Cars In Every Garage And Three Eyes On Every Fish" episode from season two.) I can't go as far as film critic Roger Moore, who I always enjoy reading, and declare this the best animated movie of the summer - "Ratatouille" is sheer perfection and more than a few notches above this one.
What it is, however, is a valentine to all the people who have stuck with the show for the last 20 years (has it really been that long?), and an almost ideal summer treat.
P.S. If any of this doesn't make sense, please forgive me. It was written when I got home from the midnight flick, when I may not have been at my most lucid. Peace out.